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Christmas storm moves east, bringing snow, high winds and heavy rain

A foot of snow, wind gusts up to 65 mph and tornadoes are all possible in the Christmas Eve storm, forecasters said.
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A Christmas Eve storm reached the East Coast on Thursday, after wreaking havoc across the Midwest and northern Great Lakes Wednesday, dropping up to 13 inches of snow with blizzard conditions reported across the Dakotas and Minnesota.

More than 100 million people will spend their Christmas Eve under some kind of storm alert, from flash flood watches to winter storm and high wind warnings.

Strong winds and heavy rain will hit the Mid-Atlantic to Northeast regions as rain changes to snow Thursday afternoon and evening across the Ohio Valley, Appalachians and interior Northeast. The switch from rain to snow could be abrupt, which could cause dangerous travel conditions for unsuspecting drivers.

Farther south, severe storms capable of producing damaging winds and tornadoes are likely across southeastern Virginia, the eastern Carolinas and northern Florida. The tornado threat will be highest across the eastern Carolinas, where it is rare to see tornadoes this time of year.

On Christmas Day, heavy rain of 1 to 4 inches, whipping winds and the flood risk will continue for parts of the Northeast and New England, especially during the morning. The highest risk for flooding will be near rivers.

Meanwhile, snow showers will lead to a White Christmas in cities including Cleveland, Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

Snowfall totals of 3 to 6 inches can be expected from the Upper Midwest to the Ohio Valley, with isolated totals up to 12 inches near the Great Lakes and in the Appalachians.

Wind gusts of 50 to 65 mph for the East Coast Thursday and Friday could cause downed trees and significant power outages. Meteorologists have suggested that people bring in Christmas decorations and charge devices, including any Christmas presents, ahead of the storm.

Behind the storm temperatures will plummet, especially across the Southeast and Florida, which will experience the coldest Christmas in over a decade. Forecast temperatures in the mid-60s for Miami will mean their coldest Christmas in 21 years and a high in the mid-30s for Atlanta will be their fourth coldest Christmas on record and coldest since 2004.