The magic of a white Christmas could mean hassles for travelers

Tuesday, December 23, 2008 | 5:40 p.m. CST; updated 6:34 p.m. CST, Tuesday, December 23, 2008

COLUMBIA — A winter storm was expected to blow in overnight Tuesday, delivering the promise of both a white Christmas and serious headaches for travelers.

Wednesday's forecast called for 1 to 2 inches of snow in the early morning with a high for the day in the low 30s, according to the National Weather Service.

Dreaming of a white Christmas?

  • The last white Christmas was in 2005 when Columbia had 5 inches of snow on the ground.
  • In the past 117 years, an inch or more of snow has covered the ground on 28 Christmas mornings.
  • The biggest snowfall was in 1915, when Columbia had 10 inches.
  • Since 1948, snow has fallen on Christmas Day 10 times.
  • The last time it snowed on Christmas was in 1993, when there was just a trace of snow.
  • The warmest Christmas Day was in 1889, when it was 74 degrees, the only time the temperature has been warmer than 70 on Christmas.
  • Columbia had its coldest Christmas morning in 1983 when the temperature dipped to 19 degrees below zero.

Source: National Weather Service

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After a partly sunny day and light winds,  the low for Wednesday is expected to drop to 17 degrees.

Christmas Day should be mostly sunny with a high near 38, meaning most of the snow still would be the ground.

Thursday's forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of rain in the evening with a low around 35.  On Friday, temperatures could climb to 50 degrees, quickly erasing the wonder of a white Christmas.

Shopping at Dillard's on Tuesday with his dad, Matthew Bush, 13, was wishing for both a sled and snow, as well as an iPod and Guitar Hero, for Christmas.

"Snow is just magical," he said.

His father, Ric Bush, said the family spent several years in Saudi Arabia with no hope of a white Christmas. He grew up in northwest Iowa, he said, and missed the snow.

"It's a storybook Christmas," he said. "You can go outside and make snowmen and go sledding and get together in front of the fireplace."

Jesse Eickholt, a graduate student at MU, said he is from Neosho, in southern Missouri, and hasn't experienced many white Christmases.

"It would be nice," said Eickholt, who spent several years in Ecuador before coming to Columbia. "There's something dreamy about a white Christmas. It is kind of picturesque, something you see on TV."

For those traveling by road or car, the chain of weather events could prove more bothersome than beautiful.

Most of Michigan and New England are forecast to be hit hard with snow and ice Wednesday and Thursday. Chicago is expected to be along the dividing line between snow and a mix of ice, rain and snow, reported the National Weather Service.

This is likely to lead to major flight delays and cancellations at O’Hare International Airport, one of the world’s busiest airports. Midway Airport in Chicago also is expected to see delays, creating a domino effect at other airports around the country.

At Detroit Metro Airport, a mix of fog, wind, rain and snow might cause significant delays. reported that the storm will hit the West Coast on Christmas Eve, just in time to launch coast-to-coast travel problems.

As of Tuesday night, Lambert-St. Louis International and Kansas City International had not experienced prolonged delays, other than flights going to Chicago-based airports.

Travelers over the next few days can go to to check on schedules for the nation's airports.

This airport status information Web site provides general conditions for the airport and is not flight-specific. Travelers should check with a specific airline determine if a flight is affected.  

Highway travel and road conditions are available at















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