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A winter storm for Christmas

Travel on Christmas Day in North Dakota and much of Minnesota will be difficult, if not impossible, the National Weather Service reported Wednesday. A winter storm warning issued Wednesday morning went into effect at midnight and continues until 6 a.

Major winter storm

Travel on Christmas Day in North Dakota and much of Minnesota will be difficult, if not impossible, the National Weather Service reported Wednesday.

A winter storm warning issued Wednesday morning went into effect at midnight and continues until 6 a.m. Saturday. There's a possibility of as much as 12 to 18 inches of snow falling in Grand Forks through Christmas Day, according to the weather service's Web site Wednesday evening. About 1 to 3 inches of snow was forecast to fall overnight into today. Another 5 inches is forecast for tonight.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation issued a travel alert just before 4 p.m. Wednesday for the western third of North Dakota, then extended it to the entire state at 5 p.m. Scattered ice was reported Wednesday evening on Interstate 29 near Hillsboro, N.D., as well as along state Highway 200, according to NDDOT's Web site.

"The worst of both the heavy snow and strong winds will hit Christmas Day and there will be blizzard-like conditions with zero-visibility out in the country," said Dave Kellenbenz of the weather service office in Grand Forks.

A powerful storm system will move northeast out of the Central Plains into Iowa late today where Kellenbenz said it will "sit and spin." The moisture being pulled by the system will create widespread heavy snow.

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"This one will rank right up there for record snowfall amounts," Kellenbenz said. "We might get a brief break Thursday evening, but a lot of folks will not be traveling Christmas Day."

Snow accumulation forecasts have been changing since the weather service began tracking the storm Tuesday. What was first forecast to be 6 to 10 inches for Grand Forks through Christmas Day grew to a projection Wednesday afternoon of 12 to 16 inches. Northerly winds will increase Friday to 15 to 30 mph with higher gusts, creating blowing and drifting snow that will make travel hazardous.

Counties along the Canadian border could see 10 to 12 inches by Saturday, while 16 to 20 inches is predicted south and east of Fargo and heavier amounts in southwest Minnesota.

It all could become a blizzard.

Kellenbenz said if visibilities are reduced to less than a quarter mile and sustained winds reach 35 miles per hour for three hours, a blizzard warning will be issued. The Herald will name the blizzard Alvin, coinciding with the release of the movie "Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakquel."

He said that by late Friday, the system will drift up into northeastern Minnesota, northwestern Wisconsin and Ontario. One bright note is that temperatures may not plummet.

"High temperatures will be around 14 degrees Saturday and Sunday and lows around zero, but they'll dip below zero pretty quick if the sky clears."

Weather in Minneapolis delayed Delta Airlines 3522 into Grand Forks by more than 90 minutes Wednesday evening.

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You can track forecast updates online at www.crh.noaa.gov/fgf/ .

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1262; (800) 477-6572, ext. 262; or send e-mail to jjohnson2@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: WEATHER
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