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Storms may increase white Christmas odds, threaten holiday travel in midwestern, northeastern US

By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
December 13, 2017, 2:38:22 AM EST

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An unsettled pattern in the days leading up to Christmas may increase odds for a white Christmas in parts of the midwestern and northeastern United States but may also pose concerns for holiday travelers.

“While the weather does not look as cold, the pattern does not look quiet during the days leading up to Christmas,” AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said, much to the dismay of holiday shoppers and those planning to travel to Christmas Day destinations.

Pastelok is concerned for one or two storms to track across the eastern half of the U.S. from Dec. 21 to 24.

Static Pattern Dec 21-24

“One storm early in this period can produce snow in the western Ohio Valley and Great Lakes as it initially arrives in the Northeast,” Pastelok said. “This looks like a storm that can impact air travel in the north."

One or two storms in the days prior to Christmas may pack marginally cold air to allow an icy or wintry mix of some sort over the central Appalachians.

Disruptions to travel on roads and in the air may impact not only those heading to their Christmas Day destinations but also the shipment of last-minute presents.

Another storm may quickly follow on its heels and track from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northeast around Dec. 22-24, according to Pastelok.

“Without any fresh cold, both systems prior to Christmas may only produce snow on their front end in the mid-Atlantic,” Pastelok said. “However, the track of the storms should cause any snow to change over to rain.”

“So, the prospect of a white Christmas is low in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.,” he said.

Historical white Christmas

A repeat of the rare snow in the Southeast is not expected with temperatures high enough for rain during both storms. Pastelok anticipates the wet weather to linger into Christmas Day across the Southeast.

There is a chance of some snow or icy mix over parts of the southern Plains.

Just enough cold air and moisture may be around to make for wintry weather farther to the north.

“Chances are good for a white Christmas from I-80 northward in the midwestern and northeastern U.S.,” Pastelok said. “This may not include New York City but definitely Boston.”

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“Even if there isn’t significant snow on the ground around Chicago, there should be snow showers around on Christmas Day across the Great Lakes to put residents in the holiday spirit,” he said.

The I-95 corridor of the Northeast may be dry but brisk and chilly for Christmas Day as any storm preceding the holiday should be offshore.

With snow on the ground and more storms set to target the Northwest, a white Christmas is also expected for the northern Rocky Mountains and the higher terrain of the Northwest.

“The Northwest will be stormy leading up to and through Christmas Day,” Pastelok said. “These will not be extreme storms, but more typical late-December systems that bring rain to the lower elevations and snow in the mountains.”

For those who are not fans of cold and do not mind a warm Christmas Day, Pastelok suggests heading to the Southwest where sunshine may provide a mild holiday.

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