Many Americans may be dreaming of a white Christmas, but it could turn into a travel nightmare for those looking to get out of town for the holidays.
Meteorologists predict snowfall could blanket nearly half the nation on Tuesday – from Dallas to Maine – as a massive snowstorm moves from the Great Plains and up into the Northeast.
And Jack Frost is expected to continue nipping at American noses until Saturday.
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While children everywhere, both young and young-at-heart, are likely to welcome the snow, the nation’s 87million holiday travelers will likely be less enthusiastic.
Between yesterday and today, the winter storm dubbed ‘Draco’ had delayed 7,367 flights in the U.S. and canceled 317, leaving desperate holiday travelers scrambling to find alternative routes.
The high winds could threaten to delay even more flights at airports in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, meteorologists said.
Pittsburgh is expected to take the biggest hit of any major metropolitan area, with 10 to 18 inches possible by Saturday evening.
Western New York, including Buffalo, is looking at up to 14 inches, said Pat Slattery, spokesman for the National Weather Service.
Accuweather is now predicting that ‘significant’ snow will fall in Oklahoma and Arkansas, potentially giving Oklahoma City its first Christmas snowfall since 1914.
Little Rock Arkansas could get up to three inches. That last time more than an inch fell on Christmas Day was 1926.
Even Dallas, Texas, could see flurries for Christmas – though likely no accumulation. The last time Dallas saw snowfall on Christmas Day was 1997 – though a 2009 blizzard left several inches behind on Christmas Eve.
‘Southern Oklahoma and Arkansas look like they’re going to get slammed with some serious snow, strong winds — four to eight inches in some places. It’s a pretty powerful storm system,’ Ted Ryan, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth, Texas, told MailOnline.
In some regions, the reaction to the winter weather was not necessarily a question of ‘why?’ but ‘what took so long?’
Mayor Rob Ortt of North Tonawanda, New York, just north of Buffalo, said of judging the city’s holiday lighting contest in the past week: ‘There was something missing. I think this was the first year there was no snow, not even a dusting.’
‘Everyone thinks of us as a place where snow is, and you relish it at Christmas time,’ he said, adding, ‘When we have snow around St. Patrick’s Day, that’s when people get annoyed.’
Western California and the Pacific Northwest are due for snow on Christmas Day, as well.
The damaging snow is supposed to start in the Rocky Mountains, gaining steam as it heads along the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles in the late afternoon to early evening of Tuesday.
From there, it will head up towards the Great Lakes and move eastward throughout Wednesday. Once it reaches the East Coast, it will begin in the Washington, D.C. area before moving up towards the southern parts of the Northeast, potentially reaching New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and possibly Massachusetts.
The storm made travel difficult from Kansas to Wisconsin on Friday, forcing road closures, including a 120-mile stretch of Interstate 35 from Ames, Iowa, through Albert Lea, Minnesota.
Iowa and Wisconsin activated National Guard troops to help rescue stranded drivers. In Iowa, two people were killed and seven injured in a 25-vehicle pile-up.
Drivers were blinded by blowing snow and didn’t see vehicles that had slowed or stopped on Interstate 35 about 60 miles north of Des Moines, state police said. A chain reaction of crashes involving semitrailers and passenger cars closed down a section of the highway.
Three other states also had traffic deaths that were blamed on the storm. There were at least two deaths in each Nebraska and Wisconsin, and one in Kansas.
In southeastern Utah, a woman who tried to walk for help after her car became stuck in snow died on Tuesday night. Search and rescue crews on snowmobiles found her buried in the snow just a few miles from her car.
On the southern edge of the storm system, tornadoes destroyed several homes in Arkansas and peeled the roofs from buildings, toppled trucks and blew down oak trees and limbs in Alabama.