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White Christmas for West After Rain, Storms Hamper Holiday Travel

Western parts of the U.S. awoke to a white Christmas Thursday, as much of the nation enjoyed clearer skies after a drenching snarled holiday travel plans.

Western parts of the U.S. — and even some areas in Hawaii — awoke to a white Christmas Thursday, as much of the nation enjoyed clearer skies after the drenching that snarled holiday travel plans for millions of Americans.

In Hawaii, web cameras from the summit of the Big Island's highest peaks showed snow on the ground Christmas Eve, and a blizzard warning remained in effect until midnight Thursday. The National Weather Service said that up to eight inches of snow could accumulate above 11,500 feet.

"Usually it's just a dusting or up to an inch or two," weather service Meteorologist Norman Hui told the Associated Press. "Right now we have a pretty powerful winter storm."

The Dakotas and Minnesota already have accumulations of several inches from a deadly storm that moved eastward across the country on Tuesday and Wednesday, dropping tornadoes in the South and windy, wet weather on the East Coast.

Between two and six inches of snow was forecast in the valleys of northern California, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, according to the National Weather Service, with higher elevations facing up to a foot of powder.

And in Colorado, up to a foot of snow is expected to start falling late this afternoon in the central and northern Rocky Mountains, according to the National Weather Service, with Denver getting as much as 10 inches. The Colorado Department of Transportation warned drivers on Interstate 70 to expect significant delays.

More than 300 flights were canceled in the U.S. on Christmas Eve, according to flight tracking service FlightAware. Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was hardest hit, accounting for about 100 of the cancellations. Passengers on one canceled flight from New Jersey to Florida were told they wouldn’t be able to reach their destination until Friday, NBC Philadelphia reported.

On Thursday no new flight delays or cancellations arose, according to FlightAware.

But parts of the Northeast will see more torrential rain, with up to an inch and a half possible in some areas, according to NBC Connecticut.

In Michigan, utility companies braced for extremely strong winds a year after a storm put thousands of people in the dark on Christmas Eve.

Sierra passes could get between three and six inches of snow, with up to 10 inches possible on the highest ridges by morning, Brooke Bingaman, a meteorologist with the weather service in Sacramento, told NBC Bay Area.


— Alastair Jamieson and Tony Dokoupil, with The Associated Press