Dreaming of a white Christmas? Go West; other states to get gusty winds

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Severe storms hit Mississippi on Tuesday, with rain and snow forecast for much of the nation. The stormy weather is expected to disrupt holiday travel in numerous cities. (Dec. 24)

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NEW YORK — If it's a white Christmas you're after, you'd better follow this familiar advice: Go West.

Snow will be falling in the western U.S. on Thursday, with anywhere from 2 to 6 inches in the valleys up to a foot in higher elevations in northern California, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, according to the National Weather Service.

The Dakotas and Minnesota already have accumulations of several inches from Wednesday's storm.

Weather service spokesman Patrick Burke said gusty winds are expected in states such as Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania — but not the snowy weather for which some holiday-minded people are longing.

"The place where it's tranquil is Texas and the Gulf Coast," he said.

Christmas Eve was windy, wet and warm across the country, creating headaches for travelers in the Great Lakes, the Northeast and a storm-battered swath of the South, where at least four people were killed.

More than 300 flights were canceled in the U.S. according to flight tracking service FlightAware. Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was hardest hit, accounting for about 100 of the cancellations.

In Michigan, utility companies braced for extremely strong winds a year after a storm put thousands of people in the dark at Christmas. The weather service said the strongest winds would last nearly until dawn on Christmas Day.

Crews were on standby Wednesday in anticipation of gusts of 45 mph or higher in the Detroit area, said DTE Energy spokeswoman Randi Berris.

Power companies struggled to restore electricity to thousands of people in Mississippi after severe weather killed at least four people, injured about 50, and damaged or destroyed an unknown number of homes and businesses.

Along the East Coast, a light but steady rain fell amid unseasonable warmth.

Sarah Stothers, of Washington, D.C., said as she stopped at a travel plaza on the New Jersey Turnpike that rain and fog made the trip tough, but it wasn't as bad as she had expected based on the weather forecast.

"I thought it would be a lot worse," she said. "I thought there would be a lot more people on the road."

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Sophia Tareen in Chicago; Regina Garcia Cano in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Colleen Slevin in Denver; Phillip Lucas in Atlanta; Michael Catalini in Hamilton Township, New Jersey; and Michael Sisak, Jeff McMillan and Albert Stumm in Philadelphia.

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