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Heavy snow totals shifting west, 5 inches to fall in metro by evening commute

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A big winter storm is bearing down on the region, bringing heavy snow, high winds and blizzard conditions to much of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Snow totals could reach a foot in some areas, especially in parts of northern and western Wisconsin.

A mixture of sleet, rain and snow moved through Thursday morning before changing to all snow Thursday afternoon, which is expected to make the evening commute terrible. The snow will continue through early Friday morning and diminish to flurries by noon Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

The metro area can expect to see about 10 inches of snow by Friday morning and deeper totals in the northeast and southeast suburbs, according to the Star Tribune. The National Weather Service is predicting 6 to 13 inches of snow from Thursday afternoon to Friday morning with snow falling at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday.

FOX 9 detailed a timeline of the snow in the metro area saying: From 9 a.m. to noon, 1 inch or more of snow is possible as a rain-snow mixture changes over to snow. From noon to 6 p.m. 3 to 5 inches of heavy, wet snow is expected. From 6 p.m. to midnight, 2 to 4 inches of heavy, wet snow will fall. On Friday morning, snow will taper off, but blowing snow could make for slippery streets.

MPR's Craig Edwards called the storm "a real powerhouse event" and noted snowfall totals will be hard to measure because of blowing and drifting snow. Edwards predicts the most snow – 10 inches or more – is expected to fall from Rochester to Hayward, Wis. Edwards added the storm will be a "long duration snow" and some roads may become impassable Thursday night.

WCCO’s Mike Augustyniak says this could be the biggest storm of the season. The storm will develop quickly throughout the day. Heaviest snow will hit the metro in the afternoon and evening commute. Augustyniak says the cutoff line will be sharp between areas with very little snow and areas that get a lot; much of the western edge of the state will get very little snow, he says. This has been a tough storm to predict, he says.

The afternoon and evening commutes are expected to be poor. The heavy snow and traffic could slow down snowplows in the metro area, according to MPR.

"Snow plows can only move as fast as the traffic is moving," Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Gutknecht told MPR Thursday morning. "And if the snow is coming down at a really quick rate, it just makes it much more of a challenge."

MPR is reporting MnDOT is planning to send out a full crew of snowplows, from 130 to 180 trucks, in the Twin Cities metro. MnDOT has more than 800 plows across the state, but will be using most of them in the eastern part of the state where the most snow will fall. If visibility becomes poor and conditions dangerous MnDOT could pull plows off the road, Gutknecht told MPR.

Below shows how much snow is expected to be on the ground at 6 p.m. Thursday:

The forecast has led dozens of school districts in southern Minnesota to cancel classes on Thursday. As the day progressed, Mankato Area Public Schools decided to close over the noon hour, according to the Mankato Free Press. St. Peter schools closed at 11:30 a.m., the Free Press reports. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency and urged residents to prepare for the storm.

Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi is urged residents to stay off the road during the storm, according to the Austin Daily Herald. This is the second time she has issued a no travel advisory this winter, the newspaper says.

The possibility of blizzard-like conditions has prompted the National Weather Service to issue blizzard and winter storm warnings throughout the area from 9 a.m. Thursday to 12 p.m. Friday.

Once the snow clears out on Friday, another batch of cold Arctic air will stream in with below-average temperatures, freezing the heavy, wet snow, according to KARE 11. The cold air will be in the area through the weekend and into next week.

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