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Timing is everything: Snow could make for slippery commute

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A tough-to-predict snowstorm already making roads slick outside the metro Tuesday could snarl the afternoon commute in the Twin Cities, forecasters say.

The storm could arrive in the metro in the late afternoon just as motorists are making their way home, perhaps first in the form of a wintry mix, the National Weather Service says. Here's how the service puts it: "A slight chance of rain after 4 p.m., mixing with snow after 5 p.m." The service predicts 2 to 4 inches Tuesday night.

Forecasters Tuesday were scrambling to nail down predictions for snow totals, which could vary widely across the state.

The Star Tribune reports that the metro is likely to get 4 to 6 inches, WCCO forecasts 3 to 6, although KARE 11 was reporting Tuesday afternoon that new readings call for less:

Still, there's potential for a 3- to 6-hour heavy burst of snow late Tuesday afternoon into the evening in the metro, MPR's Paul Huttner reported. He predicts 2 to 6 inches in the metro.

The finicky storm system "has flopped around more than most. Major model inconsistencies have narrowed, but this has been a far from easy storm to get a handle on," Huttner said. Snowfall totals of 6 to 12 inches still look likely from Morris through Willmar, Alexandria, St. Cloud, Mille Lacs, Hinckley, and the south side of Duluth into northwest Wisconsin, he said.

Snow was already piling up by noon around the state. Up to 9 inches of snow fell Tuesday roughly 80 miles northwest of the metro, in Avon, near St. Cloud, KARE 11 reported. Up to a foot is expected in St. Cloud, where snow was falling heavily Tuesday, the St. Cloud Times reports.

This tweet late Tuesday morning was from KARE 11's Laura Betker:

Road conditions were deteriorating quickly in some areas outside the Twin Cities. Eastbound Interstate 94 was closed briefly around midday near St. Cloud after a number of crashes and spinouts, the highway patrol reported.

Travel was difficult from Alexandria to St. Cloud, state troopers said, and there were a number of vehicles off the road. From State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow:

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