Now that the Twin Cities has started to thaw out after two weeks in the deep freeze, it's time to break out the umbrellas.

Yes, rain is in the forecast for the coming week, expected to start falling late Wednesday and continue into Thursday. Wednesday's high may reach 40 degrees, then drop into the teens overnight, so depending on when the precipitation begins, it could very likely be in liquid form before turning to snow.

Rain in Minnesota in January? How weird is that?

"It's somewhat unusual, but not unprecedented," said Michelle Margraf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen.

Just last year, the Twin Cities experienced a few January showers when both rain and snow fell on the 16th, when the high was 32 degrees. "Only a trace of that was snow," she said. With normal high temperatures for January a little higher than they used to be, "rain could occur more frequently," she said.

More unusual, according to Margraf, is this year's "snow drought." Total snowfall so far this winter is far below average. Typically, the Twin Cities would have experienced 23.7 inches of snow by now, she said. Instead, we've had a meager 7.2 inches. "We're 16.5 inches below normal" as of Jan. 5.

To put that in perspective, even a corner of the Deep South can boast of a whiter winter so far than Minnesota, thanks to the rare snowstorm that hit the Southeast several days ago, dumping 7.3 inches on Summerville, S.C., near Charleston. "A place in South Carolina has had more snow than us," Margraf marveled. "It's a rare event for them."

Also highly unusual, even for Minnesota, is the long stretch of frigid weather that started on Christmas Eve and didn't let up until this weekend.

"The last two weeks have been so cold," Margraf said. Subzero temperatures aren't unusual in January, but a typical cold snap lasts a couple of days.

"The unusual part was how long it's lasted, how consistent the cold has been," she said. "It's nearly unprecedented. The last time was 1886."

The long stretch of bone-rattling cold and the dearth of snow are actually related, according to Margraf.

"The colder the air, the less moisture it can hold," she said. "When it's this cold, it's hard to get appreciable snow."

The snowless part of our state will likely change midweek. How much rain and snow are coming? "We can't predict yet. We have to wait until the storm forms," she said. "It could be plowable."