Dec 23 (Reuters) - A winter storm system sweeping the Pacific Northwest on Friday is expected to unleash heavy snow, freezing rain and high winds as it moves across much of the United States over the weekend, making holiday travel treacherous, forecasters said.
The storm brought light snow and rain to Seattle in the Pacific Northwest as temperatures hovered around freezing. The National Weather Service said as much as 3 inches (7.62 cm) of snow could fall on elevated lowland areas by Saturday morning.
In northeastern Oregon, transportation authorities closed Interstate 84 between Baker City and LaGrande earlier on Friday after snow reduced visibility to zero.
10 of the biggest snowstorms in history
10 of the biggest snowstorms in history
10. The Knickerbocker Storm of 1922
View of a car buried in snow during the so-called Knickerbocker Storm, a blizzard that dropped 28 inches of snow on Washington DC, January 28, 1922. The storm, which also affected a large portion of the Eastern Seaboard, was named after the collapse of DC's Knickerbocker Theatre, caused by the excess weight of the snow on the structure's roof, which resulted in 98 deaths and 113 injuries; later, both the building's owner and architect committed suicide.
(Photo by Herbert A. French/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
9. Blizzard Of 1888
A man stands by a snow hut, after the Great Blizzard of 1888, with U.S. Capitol in background, Washington, D.C. According to History.com, 55 inches of snow piled up in some areas and hundreds of people were killed.
(Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
8. The Blizzard of 1996
The Blizzard of '96 was a severe nor'easter that paralyzed the U.S. East Coast with up to 4 feet of wind-driven snow from January 6 to January 8, 1996. It is one of only two snowstorms to receive the top rating of 5, or 'Extreme', on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale. Looking west down Penn. Ave from the US Capitol during the Blizzard.
(Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
7. 2008 Blizzard in Tibet
Journeying outside of the Unites States, Tibet got a surprise storm that lasted 36 hours and dropped upwards of five feet of snow causing buildings to collapse and at least seven deaths.
(Photo credit: Getty)
6. 1959 storm on Mount Shasta
Number six is the storm on Mount Shasta in California in 1959 which unloaded 189 inches of snow on the locals and is considered the largest snowfall from a single storm in North America according to NOAA.
(Photo by Frederic Lewis/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
2. Blizzard of 1977
At number two is the blizzard of '77 in Buffalo, New York. Powerful and sustained winds created massive snow drifts.
(Photo by Ira Block/National Geographic/Getty Images)
5. Blizzard of 1971
Next is the Eastern Canadian Blizzard of 1971. It is said the event closed down the Montreal Forum, canceling a Montreal Canadiens hockey game, something that hasn't occurred since the flu epidemic of 1918.
(Photo by Dave Norris/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
4. New England Blizzard of 1978
At number four is the New England Blizzard of 1978. Stalling over New England, this storm struck during the day, dropping over 27 inches of snow and stranding many at schools, businesses and others in their cars.
(Photo by David L Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
3. The Great Snow of 1717
Then there was the Great Snow of 1717 over the New England Area. With five feet of snow already on the ground, around four more fell on top of that creating drifts as tall as 25 feet, burying entire houses.
(Photo via Getty Images)
1. Blizzard of 1967
But the storm to top them all is the Blizzard of 1967. Laying waste to the Midwest, this storm took 76 lives, set the record snowfall for Chicago with 23 inches and was preceded by a severe tornado outbreak with temperatures in the 60's.
(Photo by Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)
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"An expansive storm system moving into the western U.S. (Friday) afternoon will make for an eventful holiday weekend across much of the Nation," the National Weather Service said in a forecast.
The storm system will first dump rain across much of the West Coast, including Southern California, where showers and thunderstorms could trigger flooding for some areas, the NWS said.
The storm will move east on Saturday, spreading snow across the Rockies and into the northern plains through Sunday, Christmas Day, the service said.
The deteriorating weather may derail travel plans for some of the 94 million Americans who the American Automobile Association says will hit the roads during the holidays.
Signs of how bad weather may cause disruptions for holiday travelers continued for a second day on Friday as 519 U.S. flights were canceled, according to flightaware.com.
A blizzard watch was in effect for the area around Bismarck, North Dakota, where as much as a foot (30 cm) of snow and heavy winds will lead to dangerous Christmas travel conditions, the NWS said.
"Blizzard conditions are possible across portions of the northern plains on Christmas Day, where snow along with winds gusting in excess of 60 mph (97 kph) could create very dangerous travel conditions," the NWS said.
A separate fast-moving system will bring light snow and rain on Friday to Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Ohio, the NWS said.
As their neighbors to the north deal with winter weather, people in southern Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee will enjoy unseasonably warm weather on Christmas Day, as temperatures are likely to soar into the 60s F, according to the NWS.
Even so, during the evening, those areas could see rain and a few thunderstorms, the NWS said. (Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bill Trott and Diane Craft)