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Warm, windy Christmas Eve expected

Note to Santa Claus: Keep your flying reindeer grounded when you come to Western New York this year.

By the time you get here, most of the area will be under a high wind warning – sustained southwest winds of 30 to 40 mph with gusts up to 65 mph. That could blow your sleigh all the way to Schenectady.

The wind warning goes into effect at 8 p.m. Wednesday for Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties and continues through 4 p.m. Thursday.

Your sleigh isn’t all that will blow away. The National Weather Service says that winds this strong will bring down trees and power lines, along with any holiday decorations that are not tied down tight.

As for other air travelers, they should expect delays, detours or even cancellations. Drivers of high-profile vehicles are advised to be careful.

Heavy rain and strong winds also may disrupt holiday travel on the East Coast between Boston, Mass., and Atlanta, according AccuWeather, a forecasting service based in Pennsylvania.

Because of the wind, forecasters issued a lakeshore flood watch for Erie and Chautauqua counties, especially for harbors and inlets.

“Water may wash across Route 5 in Athol Springs,” they warned.

The wind, which may be accompanied by some brief heavy rain, will usher in a strong cold front. Temperatures are expected to fall into the 30s on Christmas Day.

A few lingering showers may mix with snow, but not enough to make it a white Christmas, says meteorologist Tony Ansuini of the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

“If we see any snow at all on Christmas Day, it will just be scattered,” he predicts. There might be enough to create some slush on the higher terrain in the Southern Tier.

Before the wind rises and the thermometer falls, Christmas Eve could get warm enough to go into the record books. Afternoon highs near 60 are possible in and around Buffalo, forecasters say. The current mark of 59 was set 50 years ago, on Dec. 24, 1964.

Canceled because of the unseasonable warmth is ice skating on the newly opened outdoor rink at Canalside on the former site of Memorial Auditorium on Buffalo’s waterfront.

After an opening weekend that drew an estimated 6,000 visitors, officials closed the rink Tuesday because of the warm weather. It is expected to remain closed until more seasonable conditions return.

Updates will be posted on Canalside’s Facebook and Twitter sites.

The outlook is for sunshine and temperatures in the 40s when shoppers head out to exchange gifts Friday. Wind and rain are forecast to return Saturday as the next cold front approaches.

News Staff Reporter Janice Habuda contributed to this report. email: