The National Weather Service predicts a storm will bring 'the first real taste of winter' to parts of Wyoming -- including the Laramie area -- Thursday.

Timothy Trudel with the National Weather Service in Cheyenne expects rain to begin falling in the Laramie Valley early Thursday morning into the afternoon. That rain will quickly turn to snow, Trudel says, with a fairly strong cold front moving south.

Trudel is calling for accumulations "on the light side," or in the neighborhood of 1"-3" in the Laramie Valley. He expects the snow to quit falling around midnight.

North-northwest winds of 15-25 mph gusting to 35 mph will create periods of blowing, drifting snow, Trudel says. He adds that mountain passes such as the I-80 summit between Laramie and Cheyenne as well as some roadways between Rawlins and Laramie will likely see the worst conditions.

"This system's going to be pretty fast. So it'll be a quick hit of snow and then it'll be out of here," Trudel says.

Hazardous road conditions are expected, and meteorologists are encouraging drivers to prepare for the Wyoming winter before it arrives.

"When you travel Wyoming you can drive long distances without services, so travelers need to be ready to wait out a storm if they become stranded," Tim Troutman, a warning coordination meteorologist at the Riverton NWS office. "Having a winter safety kit packed in your vehicle is a must."

The Service says a vehicle winter safety kit should at the very least include non-perishable food, water, essential medications, blankets, flashlights and a first-aid kit.

Troutman adds that travelers should always dress for winter weather when driving and charge cell phones before heading out the door.

"We have heard too many stories of people wearing shorts and sandals when driving across Wyoming," Troutman says. "That won't do you much good if you become stranded or are in an accident."

Troutman advises that travelers prepare to change of cancel travel plans if road conditions are bad enough.

The latest weather forecast is available at weather.gov/cys. Road and travel information is online at wyoroad.info or by calling 511. You can also download the Wyoming 511 app on either Google Play or the Apple Store.

"Drivers need to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. The Wyoming 511 app will give you road conditions and traffic incidents for the route you are traveling, improving traveler safety," said Cody Beers, WYDOT public relations specialist in Riverton.

"Give yourself extra time to reach your destination, drive at appropriate speeds to maintain vehicle control, always your seat belt and stay well back from operating snow plows," Beers adds.

In the Laramie Valley, Trudel doesn't expect the snow to stick around very long, with temperatures warming into the weekend. But the cold weather on Friday may prove jarring.

"It's going to get sharply colder, and we could be seeing wind chills in the single digits by late Thursday night into Friday," Trudel says. "That might be a shock to the system for some people."