Christmas Day's lump of coal for the East: Flooding threats, frigid temps, wicked winds

Susan Miller, USA TODAY

I'm dreaming of a ... meteorological mess?

After a mild Christmas Eve across much of the East, Christmas Day dawned like a tooth-baring Grinch: flooding threats, wicked winds and plummeting temperatures under dismal gray skies.

"A strong frontal system will continue to bring gusty winds and locally heavy rainfall to parts of the Northeast U.S.," the National Weather Service said Friday. "This combined with snowmelt will lead to major flooding in some areas."

On Thursday night, about 275,000 customers lost power across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, according to PowerOutage.us, as 50 to 60-mph winds slammed the region. Wind advisories and high-wind warnings remained in effect Friday along the Northeast coast from New York to Boston and into Maine. Near-hurricane force winds (74 mph) were possible, the Weather Channel said.

Regional to widespread power outages were possible throughout Friday along the mid-Atlantic coast and into New England, Accuweather said.

"This could evolve into a dangerous situation where there is significant property damage and there are trees crashing down onto streets and into homes from Long Island to southern New England," AccuWeather's northeastern weather expert Dave Dombek said.

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Maxi Kolb, an exchange student from Germany, and Lukas Hradecky, an exchange student from the Czech Republic, participate in a  Santa run on wet streets Christmas morning run in Lewiston, Maine.
Maxi Kolb, an exchange student from Germany, and Lukas Hradecky, an exchange student from the Czech Republic, participate in a Santa run on wet streets Christmas morning run in Lewiston, Maine.

Flooding loomed as a major concern.

Rainfall throughout the Northeast could add significant weight to a 3- to 4-inch snowpack already on the ground in parts of New York state and northern Pennsylvania, Accuweather warned.

"The rapidly melting snow, which contains approximately 1-3 inches of water, will combine with an anticipated 1-3 inches of rain and locally higher amounts from the storm from Christmas Eve to early Christmas Day," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

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In fact, 3-6 inches of water could be released in a matter of hours, meteorologists said.

Even in places where rain had ended Friday morning, rising rivers – especially in low-lying areas – could be a concern across the Northeast, Accuweather said.

The rain over parts of the Northern Mid-Atlantic could still change over to snow by Christmas evening into Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures across most of the eastern third of the nation were expected to be frosty. "The Arctic air and brutal winds will make it feel like the dead of winter – and the combination of snow and a dramatic freeze-up will have some locations feeling like the North Pole," AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Christmas Day weather: Flooding threats, high wind warnings in East