- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 25, 2002

A snowstorm blamed for at least 12 deaths blew out of the Plains and headed for New England yesterday, promising to give many parts of the country a rare white Christmas while making a mess of holiday travel.
By Christmas night, the storm is expected to have painted a broad streak of snow from the mountains of Arizona, across the Midwest and all the way to Maine. The forecast was for 10 to 20 inches around Albany, N.Y., which has not had snow during Christmas since 1985.
"All those people who wanted a white Christmas we are going to give it to them," said National Weather Service meteorologist Chuck Tingley in Buffalo, N.Y., where up to 11 inches was forecast.
Temperatures yesterday morning were in the teens as far south as the Texas Panhandle.
Since Monday, the weather has been blamed for five deaths in Missouri, three in Oklahoma, three in Kansas and one in New Mexico.
Wind-blown snow produced near-whiteout conditions yesterday morning in the hilly Ozarks of Missouri and piled up in drifts. In some places, thick ice formed on top of the snow, making roads treacherous.
The New York State Thruway Authority had trucks and plows ready and urged Christmas Eve travelers to take off before the snow started falling during the night.
"We have lined up our cots. If necessary, we will have sleeping areas for people," said Doug Myers, an Albany airport spokesman.
"It won't ruin Christmas at all," said Matthew Cutrone, 23, of Kingston, N.Y., as he waited at the Albany airport for his girlfriend to arrive from North Carolina. "She's never had a white Christmas."
On the West Coast, the Los Angeles airport reported delays of more than an hour for flights headed to storm-affected cities, such as St. Louis.
On the Plains, 8 inches of snow had fallen on parts of Kansas by yesterday morning.
"You really don't want to be out in it," said Jerry Appel, working at a filling station in Garden City, Kan. "But it's good. It means a white Christmas."
Wichita has had an inch or more of snow on the ground for Christmas only 11 times since 1888, the weather service said.
With up to a foot of snow on Monday, parts of Oklahoma were getting their first white Christmas since 1975.
The weather system also spun off thunderstorms and tornadoes that battered parts of Georgia and Alabama yesterday morning. At least nine persons were injured. Waist-deep water stalled cars in Georgia.
"The fact that it's Christmas Eve makes it doubly bad," Ty Bettis said as he helped a neighbor clean up after a tornado in Leesburg, Ga.

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