Possibility of a white Christmas in Northeast

BOSTON Wed Dec 21, 2011 3:08pm EST

A woman dressed in a Santa costume hails a cab in New York, December 10, 2011.  REUTERS/Kena Betancur

A woman dressed in a Santa costume hails a cab in New York, December 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kena Betancur

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BOSTON (Reuters) - Parts of the Northeast may have a white Christmas but most of the rest of the country will be missing a coating of snow for the holiday, forecasters said on Wednesday.

Soggy weather leading up to Christmas on Sunday is more likely to be rain than snow in the northeast, said AccuWeather.com senior meteorologist Paul Walker.

Still, there is a chance that a pre-holiday storm later in the week could bring a couple inches of the white stuff to northern Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire and the Berkshires in Massachusetts, but it may not last, said Matt Doody, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Taunton, Massachusetts.

"That's not a whole lot of snow, so all it has to do is get above freezing for a little while and that will all be gone by Christmas," Doody said.

Walker said rain and some snow is possible around New York and Boston on Christmas day.

Technically, a white Christmas means at least an inch of snow on the ground on Christmas day, but the coating doesn't necessarily have to be fresh, the NWS said.

"By and large this is going to be a brown Christmas not a white Christmas for most of the country," said Chris Vaccaro, spokesman for the NWS.

Walker said many of the major cities along the east coast will hover around the 40 degree mark on Christmas.

"Lack of real cold air coming in to the East is a key factor of why we haven't seen much snow so far," he said.

Last year, about half of the country was covered in snow, including upstate New York and New England, according to NWS. This year, just 23 percent of the United States is blanketed in snow, including parts of the Southwest and plains hit earlier this week by a blizzard.

Boston is among the Northeast cities that will likely see a "sunny and bright Christmas day as opposed to a white one," Vaccaro said.

Dry weather would be good news for the millions of Americans on the go during the busy holiday season, especially in the Northeast.

Nationwide, nearly 92 million people are expected to travel by planes, trains, cars and buses during the holidays, according to Mary Maguire, Massachusetts spokeswoman for AAA Southern New England.

While the majority will take to the road in their cars from the end of this week through the new year, about 5.4 million of those travelers are expected to fly during the same period, she said.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)

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