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White Christmas for half the country as travel woes continue

Thursday, December 25th, 2008 7:44am MST

Old Man Winter brought a white Christmas to much of the northern half of the United States which may be a blessing or a curse depending on your point of view.  Images released by the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center  show that many areas that wouldn’t normally expect snow are covered in a blanket of white this Christmas.

Much of the country west of the Continental Divide will have snow or rain Christmas Day.  Areas of the Sierra Nevada and southwestern Colorado will be measuring the snow in feet.  Salt Lake City is expecting 4 to 8 inches while here in Denver we remain dry and will actually have a pretty mild day. 

In the northeast they will have a cold and blustery holiday.  Lake Erie and Lake Ontario will generate some lake-effect snows from Pennsylvania through New York and into northern New England. 

The latest cold blast to hit the nation has caused travel woes across much of it.  In Chicago, 500 flights were canceled on Tuesday stranding many travelers, some of whom won’t be able to reach their destination until today.  100 flights were canceled at O’Hare Wednesday but delays improved as the day went on.  Sadly the weather did have a more serious toll as between Tuesday and Wednesday at least 30 people were killed in crashes on rain- and ice-slickened roads across the nation’s midsection. 

Out west in Washington and Oregon, residents and government officials were wishing for a return to their normal rainy weather as they were unprepared for the snow that has fallen in recent days.  In Portland, Oregon many side streets were impassable without chains or four wheel drive.  Wednesday more snow fell followed by rain which most likely will add to the problems when it freezes tonight.

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire declared a statewide winter storm emergency saying, “A number of counties and cities are struggling to meet the problems posed by this month’s onslaught of snow and winter weather.  Snowfall has reached record or near-record level in 30 of the state’s 39 counties.”  Her proclamation will allow state agencies to support local operations including the activation of the National Guard. 

Active weather watches and warnings on Christmas Day.Here in Colorado, much of the western slope is under various types of winter weather advisories.  A Winter Storm Warning covers the western half of the state and Blizzard and Avalanche Warnings cover some areas south of I-70.  Needless to say, Christmas Day travel in the high country will be greatly impeded by these storms.  

Good weather along the eastern part of Colorado has allowed Denver International Airport to operate normally for the most part.  However, some delays were experienced for flights heading to other parts of the nation affected by the winter weather. 

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