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Snow flurries make for a white Christmas in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- Christmas brought snow to Reno, flurries to Las Vegas and cold to Elko as wintery weather swept east from the Sierra Nevada.

National Weather Service meteorologist Dawn Johnson said Friday that while a snowstorm was letting up in Reno, icy temperatures remained.

Motorists found treacherous roads and low visibility during the height of the storm on Thursday, with Interstate 80 closed for a time east of Sparks due to poor visibility and multiple car spin-outs and crashes. No serious injuries were reported.

NHP Trooper Duncan Dauber said two Nevada Highway Patrol vehicles were damaged by skidding vehicles.

Up to 2 feet of snow fell at Lake Tahoe ski areas, and up to 5 inches in Reno and Sparks, Johnson said Friday.

"Cold is going to stick around all through the weekend in the northern part of the state" she said.

Daytime temperatures weren't forecast to crack the freezing mark, with lows in the single-digits in the city and below zero in mountain and valley areas.

In Elko, City Manager Curtis Calder told the Elko Daily Free Press that a cold weather emergency shelter will likely open for the second time this season. The shelter only opens if temperatures are below zero.

Outside town, the SnoBowl Ski & Bike Park also planned to open Saturday and Sunday.

SnoBowl Manager Roche Bush told the Free Press the 18 inches of snow in the parking lot was the most he'd seen in several years.

In Las Vegas, the weather service heralded rare Christmas Day snow flurries with the posting, "Ho, ho, ho! Vegas got snow!"

Weather service meteorologist Chris Stachelski noted that the trace of snow recorded with rain showers overnight at McCarran International Airport tied a Christmas Day record set in 1941, and tied in 1988 and 2008.

Nothing stuck on the sidewalks of the Strip, but some northwest Las Vegas neighborhoods received a dusting of snow. It melted as the morning dawned clear and sunny with temperatures in the high 30s.

Meteorologist John Salmen said the wet weather blew in with windy squalls that brought gusts up to 38 mph between midnight and 2 a.m.

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, New York City has broken its record for the warmest Christmas.

The National Weather Service said temperature readings at Central Park reached 66 degrees at 12:31 a.m. Friday. The previous record was 64 degrees in 1982.

Spring-like weather continued for another day across the eastern half of the country, with Washington D.C., at 69 degrees, just three degrees shy of its Christmas record, and normally-chilly Boston hitting 59 degrees.

People visit Central Park on a warm day on December 24, 2015 in New York City. Kena Betancur, Getty Images

A map by and the University of Maine shows just how much of the nation is experiencing above-average temperatures, with many areas, in red, about 20 degrees higher than normal.

The Christmas warm-up follows a month of record-setting temperatures in November. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said November was the seventh consecutive month that a global temperature record was broken, and the U.N. has already declared 2015 the warmest year on record.

The day before Christmas, New Yorkers in shorts and tank tops embraced temperatures that soared into the 70s, more typical of May.

"Sometimes global warming is awesome," Meg Roedling said as she ran through Brooklyn Bridge Park in shorts and a T-shirt.

The warm weather across the Northeast made it coats-optional for a number of last minute shoppers on Christmas Eve.

And the shopping season has also been hot-and-cold this year.

At the Flemington Department Store, in New Jersey, the warm weather has cooled apparel sales. Owner Martin Resnick said most of his heavy winter clothing items are sitting, reports CBS News correspondent Anna Werner.

"A lot of the business from our industry went away because people just don't feel 'Christmasy' and they're not cold. They're not going to work and feeling cold," he said.

It's a similar story up and down the East Coast.

Data firm Planalytics estimates retailers have lost over $400 million in sales since November 1, compared to the same critical 7-week sales period last year.

Like the weather, a hot and cold shopping season

In Chicago, sales of long-sleeved knits are down 16 percent. Snow thrower sales are off 15 percent in Cincinnati. And outerwear sales dropped 25 percent in Tampa.

"Retailers may have a great January or February clearing out winter merchandise, but it's gonna be marked down 50 to 70 percent," said Fred Fox the Planalytics CEO. "So they're not gonna make a lot of money off it."

There are some winners in this winter warm up. At some golf courses in the Midwest, rounds of golf played in December have gone up over 1,000 percent. Sales of bicycles, fishing gear and even iced tea, are all up.

But Fox said some retailers are at risk.

"Any retailer that has been marginal, meaning they've been limping along, a season like this could definitely put them out of business," he said.

Martin Resnick said his store will survive -- but it won't make back those sales.

"They're taking the money they would've spent in our industry and they're spending it elsewhere," he said.

Fox said winter apparel purchases are driven by need -- and who needs a heavy coat in this weather? On the other hand, what's bad for retailers is good for consumers, who should be able to stock up on discounted cold weather gear -- if not for this winter, for next year.

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