Biden warns Americans: 'Leave now' if you plan Christmas travel

WASHINGTON, Dec 22 (Reuters) - The United States faces "dangerous and threatening" storms in the days before Christmas, President Joe Biden warned Thursday from the White House, and Americans who plan to travel to visit family or friends should leave right away.

“It’s dangerous and threatening, it’s really very serious weather and it goes from Oklahoma all the way to Wyoming and Maine. ... So I encourage everyone to please heed local warnings," Biden said in the Oval Office.

"If you all have travel plans, leave now, not a joke. I’m sending my staff ... if they have plans to leave tomorrow, I’m telling them leave now."

A massive storm system is expected to bring blizzard conditions to the Great Lakes region, up to 2 inches (5 cm) of rain followed by a flash freeze on the East Coast, and wind gusts of 60 miles (100 km) per hour and bitter cold as far south as the Mexican border.

Biden, who plans to remain in Washington for the Christmas holiday on Sunday, said he will be briefed later by FEMA and the National Weather Service.

The White House has already spoken to 26 state governors in afflicted regions, he said. "This is not like a snow day, when you were a kid, this is serious stuff," Biden said.

Reporting by Nandita Bose; Writing by Heather Timmons; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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