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White Christmas: Mountain West To Great Lakes

December 24, 2014

UPDATED By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Fred Allen

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With Christmas arriving tomorrow, many will be wishing for snow to fall as they gather with family and friends to enjoy the holiday season. Those wishes will be granted from northern California into Montana`s High Plains, as well as from the Missouri Valley into the Great Lakes. Others, unfortunately, will have to wait until another year... or perhaps buy a can of artificial snow!

Nearly one-third of the U.S. is covered in snow, with the deepest snow pack found in the Sierra Nevada, northern Cascades, and in higher elevations extending along the Rocky Front Range. Other places such as the northern Great Lakes, Upstate New York and central and northern New England have a decent snow cover as well.

A potent Pacific storm will slide from northern California into the central Plains by Christmas Day. That will mean Oregon`s Cascades, northern California including the Sierra Nevada, Bitterroots and most of Idaho will receive heavy snow on Christmas Eve. From there, the Wasatch Range and Rocky Front Range will be dumped upon by heavy snow Christmas Day.

The other places that will be a near-lock to see a white Christmas will be from the Missouri Valley to the northern Great Lakes, where an equally impressive storm system will deliver a band of snow. Cities like St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Marquette, Mich., could all be shoveling away a few inches of fresh snow between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

Meanwhile, the same Great Lakes storm system will leave much of the Eastern Seaboard without snow while un-wrapping gifts on Christmas morning. The exceptions will be a few leftover snow showers and flurries across the Ohio Valley and along the Appalachian Spine from eastern Tennessee to the eastern Great Lakes and Upstate New York. Here, a dusting to an inch of snow could blanket the ground.

Not to be left out, the typical warm spots along the U.S. Southern-Tier will have a "Green Christmas."

By the way, the official definition of a "White Christmas" is at least 1 inch of snow on the ground the morning of Dec. 25. This does not necessarily mean that the snow fell on December 24 or 25.

Using more than 30 years of Christmas weather observations, government climatologists have produced general probabilities of a White Christmas. The best potential historically is the Mountain West, northern Great Plains, lake-effect snow belts and Interior Northeast. Check out this map to see where the best probability of a "White Christmas" is on a year-to-year basis.

Stampede Pass, Wash., Yellowstone National Park, Marquette, Mich., International Falls, Minn., and Adirondack Park in New York are typically guaranteed a White Christmas every year. The Twin Cities, on average, have a 72 percent chance of a White Christmas while Denver annually has a 38 percent chance of a White Christmas in any given year. Stampede Pass, Wash., in the Cascade Mountains east of Tacoma, has a 96 percent chance that there will be more than 10 inches of snow on the ground on December 25.

On the other hand, the chance for a White Christmas is almost nonexistent over the U.S. Southern Tier, with a less than five percent chance from southern California and Arizona to Florida and much of the Carolinas. A bit further northward from the higher terrain of northeastern Arizona into Kansas, eastward through Maryland, southeastern Pennsylvania and much of New Jersey, the "odds" increase to 10 to 25-percent chance on December 25. This includes the nation`s capital.

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