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Dreams of a white Christmas a weather nightmare for some parts of the country

A white Christmas in Seattle and the Puget Sound region made travel treacherous. (KOMO)

Holiday revelers may have been dreaming of a white Christmas, but when those dreams came true it became a nightmare for some parts of the country, causing scores of automobile accidents, power outages and even shuttered airports.

Many in the Northeast and Midwest got to enjoy a blanket of snow on Christmas morning, the bad news was that a blizzard swept into parts of New England and bitter cold enveloped much of the Midwest.

Even the usually rainy Pacific Northwest got the white stuff. The National Weather Service says it's only the sixth time since 1884 that downtown Portland had measurable snow — only an inch or two — on a Dec. 25.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST

A rare Christmas Eve snow in Seattle and across much of the Puget Sound region led to light accumulations of only a half inch to 2 inches on Sunday, KOMO News reported. However, the below-freezing temperatures made for icy, treacherous roads that resulted in scores of accidents.

Northeast of Seattle, Snohomish County Sheriff’s officials reported 11 collisions by 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve, then a handful more in the east county.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has shut down several major streets due to icy and dangerous conditions. The Interstate 5 corridor was briefly closed on Christmas Eve, KATU reported, as multiple semis stalled out on the icy roads.

The roads appeared better by Christmas afternoon, but the area is expecting a re-freeze overnight into Tuesday morning, meaning drivers can still expect slick roadways.

MIDWEST

States from Montana and the Dakotas to Wisconsin expected wind chill temperatures in places at 40 below zero (40 below Celsius), the National Weather Service said. The upper half of Iowa and northern Illinois also braced for subzero temperatures.

Central Illinois saw its first snowfall of the season and some challenges for holiday travelers, WRSP reported.

Minnesota was experiencing its most frigid Christmas Day since 1996, with wind chills as cold as 35 degrees below zero, KSTP-TV reported. The National Weather Service warned that those whose skin was exposed in such conditions could get frostbite in as little as 15 minutes.

Snow amounts in the Midwest were not large for this time of year. A storm system that swept from Nebraska through Iowa dropped around 2 inches of snow on Chicago, the weather service said.

That was just enough to provide a picturesque backdrop for those gathering for Christmas dinners in the Chicago area. But it wasn't enough to cause havoc either on roadway or airport runaways.

Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was reporting just six cancelations and average delays of only 15 minutes around noon Monday. There were no cancellations at the city's other major airport, Midway, and delays were less than 15 minutes on average.

The nation's third largest city had comparatively little snow for the season until the weekend — just over 2 inches (5 centimeters) in all, the National Weather Service said.

Throughout central Nebraska, the snow wasn't showing any signs of stopping ahead of Christmas, KFXL reported. A continuous falling of soft snow left the roads feeling slick for drivers still on the roads, and many drivers said they still have lots of traveling to do for this holiday weekend.

The city of Milwaukee had 103 salt trucks treating slick spots Monday, according to WITI-TV. The trucks were using treated salt that's deployed when temperatures drop below 15 degrees.

NEW ENGLAND & NEW YORK

A blizzard warning was issued Monday for portions of Maine and New Hampshire, with forecasters saying snow of up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) and wind gusts up to 50 mph (80 kph) could make travel "dangerous to impossible."

In addition to slowing travel in New England, the storm was responsible for some power outages. Eversource reported more than 20,000 customers in eastern Massachusetts without electricity, the bulk on Cape Cod which was feeling the brunt of strong winds.

Central Maine Power customers also had to deal with outages, WGME reported. As a strong snowstorm with high winds blows through Maine, nearly 900 CMP customers were without power as of 12:57 p.m. on Christmas Day.

Parts of the state were under a blizzard warning was issued Christmas morning through 5 p.m., with strong wind gusts blowing snow all over southern and central Maine.

New England was expected to get up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow. Strong winds were predicted for Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island with gusts up to 65 mph (105 kph).

In upstate New York, Syracuse police have investigated more than 85 crashes over the past three days, due to the snowfall and wintry mix of weather, WSTM reported.

Even in a part of the country that regularly experiences heavy snowfall and winter weather, driving in these conditions can be tricky.

MOUNTAINS

Mountain areas in parts of Colorado, Montana and Wyoming received more than 1 foot (30 centimeters) of snow, which started Saturday. It was good news for holiday skiers and resorts which have struggled with a slow start this season.

But it meant a heightened warning of avalanches in higher elevations outside of ski areas.

In northern Utah, forestry experts are warning people about avalanche risks this week.

Utah's KUTV reported that the winter storm and challenging weather conditions resulted in more than a dozen car accidents on Christmas Eve.

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Reporters from KOMO, KATU, WSTM, WGME, KFXL, WRSP, KUTV contributed to this report.




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