What does winter have in store for us this year?

Whether it's snowy and chilly or dry and mild, winter is on the way.

From frozen water pipes to a caved-in roof, winter can be devastating for unprotected property. Some cold weather periods come and go causing no major problems to speak of in the home, but with the weather being an inexact science, one never knows what Mother Nature will do once December and January roll around.

However, early indications suggest this winter has the potential to be fairly mild compared to seasons gone by, according to newly released predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For instance, in the temperature department, warmer conditions are anticipated in Northern New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and over virtually all of the South, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center reported. Conversely, slightly cooler temperatures are expected in the Upper Midwest, stretching from Montana to western Michigan.

Perhaps the biggest influence this year on how Old Man Winter manifests himself is the weather phenomenon known as La Nina. In October, NOAA forecasters issued a La Nina watch, as the ingredients are in place for a cooling of ocean temperatures in the Pacific. This is the direct opposite of what happens under an El Nino effect. The other difference is La Nina tends to bring drier, milder conditions.

La Nina expected to be short lived

That said, you may not want to scrap servicing your snow blower just yet. Normally, the weather patterns emanating from La Nina tend to last for a minimum of nine months, according to meteorologists with Accuweather. This time around, though, it may not last nearly as long, suggesting that we could be in for more than a few major storms as the season progresses, particularly along the eastern portion of the country, warned Paul Pastelok, Accuweather's lead long-range forecaster.

"I think the Northeast is going to see more than just a few, maybe several, systems in the course of the season," Pastelok explained.

La Nina isn't the only factor that will have a role to play in how the season shapes up. Other influences include Arctic Oscillation and the Madden-Julian Oscillation, according to NOAA scientists. The former dictates the degree to which arctic air masses will impact the South and East, while the latter relates to precipitation intensity in the Pacific Northwest.

NOAA Climate Prediction Center Deputy Director Mike Halpert said that no matter what happens, you can never go wrong by preparing.

"This climate outlook provides the most likely outcome for the upcoming winter season, but it also provides the public with a good reminder that winter is just up ahead and it's a good time to prepare for typical winter hazards, such as extreme cold and snowstorms," Halpert said. "Regardless of the outlook, there is always some chance for extreme winter weather, so prepare now for what might come later this winter."

The following tips can provide you with the information you need to take action when the temperatures plunge or the snow piles up.

Allow faucet to drip during cold snaps

Particularly during the overnight hours, the mercury can drop to single digits and well below zero. Extreme cold can increase the risk that your water pipes crack or burst, causing serious damage that may require a homeowner's insurance claim. Preventing this can be as simple as turning the faucet knobs so a slow trickle of water leaks out. The constant flow, albeit small, is usually enough to keep the pipes from freezing. The American Red Cross has some additional pointers that can be useful, like how you to thaw your pipes should they freeze over.

Monitor your roof

The roof tends to be out of sight, out of mind, but it's possibly the most important component to a residence, considering what can happen when it fails under the weight of heavy snow. According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, the average residential roof should have no problem withstanding the weight of snow at 20 pounds per square foot. Anything more than that can increase the risk of it collapsing. Check out IBHS' website for details on the weight differences between fresh snow and packed snow and when you should start thinking about removing the white stuff with a roof rake.

Update your homeowner's insurance policy

When was the last time your reviewed your homeowner's insurance plan? If a year or longer, time to get it updated. A lot can happen over the course of 12 months, like the purchase of new installations or renovation. The coverage you had then may be short of what you need today. Contacting your insurance agent can help you determine what requires updating, thereby avoiding out-of-pocket costs stemming from not having enough coverage 

Furthermore, your purchases over the last year may make you eligible for discounts. For example, combining your auto insurance policy with your homeowner's can help you save money. Bundling is also a much more efficient way of managing your policies.