Wet Christmas: Warm temps expected across country, rain soaks West

This holiday weekend is a tale of two Christmases: Heavy snow, rain and wind are forecast for the entire US West Coast, while potentially record-breaking warmth will toast the South.

The rest of the United States over this period looks to be unseasonably warm. Christmas holiday travel could be hindered by rain and snow most often in the West, but a few storm systems could lead to some headaches in parts of the Midwest, East and South.

Much of the southern U.S. will enjoy a dry and very warm Christmas Day., with high temperature records set to fall Saturday from Texas into the Southeast. The West will continue to be stormy.

Heavy rains in Northern California left two people dead in a submerged car as authorities urged residents of Southern California mountain and canyon communities to voluntarily leave their homes because of possible mud and debris flows.

In the Sierra Nevada, an evacuation warning was issued for about 150 homes downstream of Twain Harte Lake Dam after cracks were found in granite that adjoins the manmade part of the 36-foot-high (11-meter) structure. Authorities began releasing some water, but the dam didn’t seem in any immediate danger, Tuolomne County sheriff’s Sgt. Nicco Sandelin said.

The precautions for Southern California came as precipitation that had mostly been falling in Northern California this week spread throughout the state. 

But the Omicron variant of coronavirus seemed to be a bigger threat to travel this weekend than weather. Airlines have canceled thousands of flights on Christmas Eve, including hundreds of US domestic flights, as staff and crew call out sick during the Omicron surge.

Globally, airlines have canceled over 2,000 flights, 454 of which are within, into or out of the United States.

More broadly, a white Christmas seems to be slowly morphing from a reliable reality to a dream of snowy holidays past for large swaths of the United States in recent decades.

Analysis of 40 years of December 25 U.S. snow measurements shows that less of the country now has snow for Christmas than in the 1980s.

That’s especially true in a belt across the nation’s midsection — from Baltimore to Denver and a few hundred miles farther north. And snow that falls doesn’t measure up to past depths.