Wild, wet and white: Big storm threatens holiday plans across central, southern, eastern U.S.
A sprawling, powerful storm that is already causing heavy snowfall across much of the north-central United States is targeting the east and south and threatens to growl vacation plans for millions of Americans before and on Christmas Day.
Snow storm warnings apply in the northern plains, where heavy snowfall and howling winds combine to create treacherous travel conditions, the National Weather Service said.
The weather service said the wind chill in the Dakotas could plunge to 35 degrees below zero later Wednesday, propelled by gusts of up to 65 miles per hour. Snow depth can be up to 6 inches. The highest concentrations will be in west-central Minnesota.
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The storm, along with a cold front, will then zoom over the eastern half of the country on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Wild temperature swings are also forecast - and strangely warm weather is followed by some of the coldest temperatures of the season.
A man uses a snow blower to clear snow near Copley Square on December 17, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts.
The storm will trigger "extreme weather on Christmas Eve" in the east, said AccuWeather meteorologist Bernie Rayno. "Make sure you are ready for this," he warned.
For parts of the eastern third of the country, heavy, possibly flooded rain of 1 to 3 inches is forecast on Christmas Eve, the weather service said.
"In many areas, rain is expected to fall on a deep and relatively fresh snowpack from the northeast last week, adding to flood concerns as rain can cause rapid snowmelt," the weather service said. "Another problem is the extra weight that rain could put on the roofs of buildings that are still covered in heavy snow."
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The winds will also howl in the east on Christmas Eve: "Winds are expected to blow between 50 and 60 miles per hour over a wide area from eastern North Carolina to Maine," said AccuWeather meteorologist Alex DeSilva.
Winds of this magnitude can not only sail trash cans and Christmas decorations through neighborhoods as dangerous projectiles, AccuWeather said, but trees can be knocked over in high winds, posing a risk to motorists and pedestrians.
Meanwhile, the very cold temperatures behind the front will carry snow possibly several inches over eastern parts of the Ohio Valley and over the central Appalachians on Christmas Eve and into Christmas morning, the weather service said.
Further south, as the system moves east, severe thunderstorms and the possibility of tornadoes are also possible on Christmas Eve in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. The greatest chance for severe storms and tornadoes is in eastern North Carolina, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
Falling Iguana Alert !: Cold Florida weather can cause iguanas to fall from trees. But they are not dead.
Christmas Day will be freezing cold in almost all of the nation's eastern third, with the exception of New England, which will be unusually mild and humid. Temperatures in Maine could rise over Christmas in the mid-50s, which will be warmer than parts of Florida, the weather service said.
In South Florida, temperatures could plunge into their 30s by Saturday morning, potentially causing cold-stunned iguanas to fall from trees, the weather service said.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Winter Storm: The system brings rain, wind, snow and temperature changes
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