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How is winter storm affecting holiday travel? (+video)

The storm has already dumped up to eight inches of snow in Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Every region receiving snow this week is expected to have a white Christmas.

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• A 146-mile stretch of Interstate 80 was closed late Wednesday in Nebraska, while Interstate 70 in Colorado was closed east of Denver to the Kansas state line. In Kansas City, Mo., parts of Interstate 29 were closed near the city airport.

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• More than 30,000 people in Iowa experienced power blackouts Wednesday. About 16,000 scattered outages were reported in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas.

• In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) declared a state of emergency and closed most state buildings Thursday, with the exception of the State Capitol in Madison. About 120 Wisconsin National Guard troops were called to active duty at armories throughout the state.

The storm system is moving eastward toward the Great Lakes, where the snowfall is expected to last up to 10 hours. Still, only about 1-1/2 inches of snow is expected to fall in the Chicago area, although heavier snow totals, up to four inches, are expected on the eastern side of Lake Michigan.

“As the snow system continues to move east today, by end of the day, most of the snow should be out of Iowa and Wisconsin and lingering over the Great Lakes area,” Mr. Keeney says. Up to 14 inches are expected in parts of northern Michigan, with five inches already accumulated by Thursday afternoon.

Every region receiving snow this week is expected to have a white Christmas, defined as a snow depth of an inch or more, says AccuWeather in State College, Pa. This includes areas, it adds, that are not necessarily used to heavy snowfall, such as Flagstaff, Ariz., currently saddled with a foot of snow.

“People who got the snow will have a white Christmas. It’s not going anywhere,” says Henry Margusity, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.

The area with the best chances of a white Christmas this year is northern New England, which will receive the Midwest storm by Friday.

Despite the sudden blast of inclement weather, as well as lowered expectations in overall holiday sales, consumers are still feeling the need to get out of the house, ShopperTrak says. The firm sees holiday foot traffic increasing 2.8 percent compared with last year, which represents the first increase since 2008.

So while people are getting out more to stores – which has resulted in some boosts, such as an improving unemployment rate – they are more cautious in how much they spend.

“I think everybody is taking pause and seeing where the chips are going to fall” regarding the fiscal cliff, the economy, and their own personal financial outlook, Martin says. “All those things have got to be weighing on the minds of consumers. So maybe, for this season, giving one gift is as good as giving two.”


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