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It's late December, so Buffalo's about to flirt with a White Christmas again.

Forecasts for Christmas week offer only the chance of snow on Christmas Day, despite Buffalo's wintry image and a small flurry of statistics that give this region a slight edge toward good sleighing.

"It's not unusual not to have a white Christmas," said National Weather Service meteorologist Stephen F. McLaughlin. "It's a shade better than 50-50."

Here's what the week-long outlook looks like, according to the computer models:

This weekend will bring snow showers, perhaps about an inch of heavy, wet snow that could make area roads temporarily as slick as St. Nick in a greased chimney.

Fairly mild weather will again set in for the first part of the week and continue through Christmas Eve, delighting merchants and last-minute shoppers alike.

Christmas Day will bring either some snow -- or some rain.

This week the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University pegged Buffalo's chances for a white Christmas at 57 percent -- based on long-term averages, not the forecasts.

Buffalo had only a trace of snow on the ground last Christmas morning, scientists noted. Erie, Pa. was the only area in the region to see any major snow last Dec. 25.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- which maintains an Internet web site listing white Christmas possibilities nationwide -- weighed in with an announcement that Buffalo has a 57 percent chance of an inch or more of Christmas morning snow, a 23 percent chance of five or more inches, and a 13 percent chance of 10 inches or more.

That puts Buffalo's chances -- again, based on averages rather than forecasts -- behind those of Albany, Binghamton, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica or Watertown.

For the record, Buffalo so far this month officially has logged 10.8 inches of snow -- and the whole season, so far, has contributed only 27.5 inches, a bit below normal.

Our record for Christmas snow, by the way, is 18 inches -- on Dec. 25, 1960.

This year, the forecasters say, won't even be close.

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