Christmas Eve for many: warm, windy and not white

Published 10:21 am Wednesday, December 24, 2014

NEW YORK — Christmas Eve is shaping up to be windy, wet and warm instead of white across much of the country, creating headaches for some travelers, especially in the Great Lakes and the Northeast.

While parts of the South cleaned up from severe storms that killed at least four people, a system that forecasters had feared could bring several inches of snow to Illinois, including the air travel hub of Chicago, was expected to track farther east.

Still, by midmorning Wednesday, more than 225 flights had been canceled in the U.S., according to flight tracking service FlightAware. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport was hardest hit, accounting for 93 of the cancellations.

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Still, several inches of slushy snow was still possible in the afternoon, mainly in areas southeast of Chicago along the Indiana state line and in far western Illinois. That was similar to the forecast for Indiana, where the National Weather Service said 2 to 4 inches of snow could leave untreated roads and bridges slick.

Holiday travelers in Ohio, Michigan and New York faced the prospect of windy weather. A high wind warning was issued from Wednesday evening to Thursday morning for much of northern Ohio. Meteorologists warned that gusts of 65 mph in western New York could blow away holiday decorations.

In Michigan, utility companies braced for extremely strong winds a year after a storm put thousands of people in the dark at Christmas. The weather service said the strongest winds are expected at night and would last nearly until dawn on Christmas Day.

Crews are on standby Wednesday in anticipation of gusts of 45 mph or higher in the Detroit area, said DTE Energy spokeswoman Randi Berris.

A light but steady rain fell Wednesday along much of the East Coast.

Temperatures topped 50 degrees Wednesday morning in some areas of western New York.

In northern New Jersey, forecasters warned thunderstorms could boom as temperatures head toward 60. A coastal flood advisory was in effect, and fog was predicted in the northern part of the state.

Still, some parts of the country were welcoming bona fide snow in time for Christmas.

Five to 10 inches was forecast in mountain passes and up to 3 inches on valley floors in Nevada’s Sierras. And mountainous areas of Washington expected 3 to 5 inches to fall Wednesday.

Power companies struggled to restore electricity to thousands of people in Mississippi after severe weather killed at least four people, injured about 50, and damaged or destroyed an unknown number of homes and businesses.