Winter’s icy grip is due to ease up later this week, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

After more than two weeks below freezing, forecasters say a sudden thaw is coming our way, thanks to a warm front that is expected to lift north across the region Thursday and Friday.

Temperatures are supposed to approach 50 degrees Thursday and start shrinking all the snow we have.

But then a powerful cold front is expected to sweep across the Great Lakes, bringing rain and perhaps a thunderstorm. The combination of the rain on frozen ground and the runoff from the snow could spell trouble.

That has prompted the National Weather Service to issue a flood watch for all of Western New York from 6 p.m. Thursday to 6 p.m. Friday.

“We’ve had such a cold winter with so much snow, this was going to come along at some point,” Weather Service meteorologist Jim Mitchell said Monday night. “The good thing is that it isn’t going to be major.

“There’s enough snowpack out there to soak up a lot of the rain – there’s going to be half to three-quarters of an inch of rain between late Thursday and early Friday, but it won’t be like it’s 2 or 3 inches,” he added.

“But nothing’s going to soak into the ground. It’s frozen. It’s all going to be runoff. It’s going to be like a big parking lot. Hopefully, the (highway crews) will be out there getting snow and ice off of the storm sewers.”

As for ice jam flooding in the area’s major streams, Mitchell said it’s likely to be localized, but it’s hard to predict where it will hit.

“There may be areas that don’t usually see flooding where that may occur,” he noted. “The good thing here is that it will be a short-lived warm-up and it will be gradual.”

But before that comes, we’ll have to endure some more of winter’s punishment. The region was expected to get 2 to 4 more inches of snow overnight, driven by wind gusts of 35 to 50 mph, making highways treacherous this morning.

The winds are supposed to diminish later today, but not by much, with highs in the upper 20s and a few lingering snow flurries. Wednesday’s outlook is a little better – still windy, but warmer, with temperatures rising to the upper 30s under cloudy skies and a chance of some afternoon snow or rain.