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Chances are growing the Twin Cities and southern Minnesota will see significant snow starting Thursday afternoon and lasting well into Friday.

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch covering most of southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities, and western Wisconsin. The greatest snowfall — 6 to 9 inches — is predicted along a line from Fairmont to Mankato to the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and through Luck and Cumberland in western Wisconsin, the weather service said.

Northwest winds with gusts of 45 mph or higher will accompany the first storm of 2021, the weather service said.

"Travel could be very difficult. Areas of blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility," the weather service said in its advisory. "Gusty winds could take down tree branches."

A weather advisory was issued for an area stretching from Morris in west central Minnesota northeast through Brainerd and up to International Falls. That area could see 3 to 6 inches of snow.

Hazardous weather could begin as early as Wednesday evening as a mix of rain and freezing rain pushes into western Minnesota and then moves east.

In the Twin Cities, untreated roads, bridge decks and sidewalks could glaze up as a light mix of freezing precipitation arrives Wednesday night.

Rain will move out Thursday morning, followed by a lull and a band of light snow that will intensify later in the day.

The heaviest accumulations are expected Thursday night into Friday morning. Snowfall rates are expected to remain below an inch per hour in the Twin Cities, but a prolonged snowfall is expected, the weather service said.

Blizzard conditions could develop across west central into south central Minnesota where the strongest winds are expected, the weather service said.

The last measurable snowfall in the Twin Cities was on Dec. 29 when 2.4 inches of snow fell. Since then, the metro area has received only trace amounts of snow twice during January, on the 4th and 9th. For the season, just over 12 inches of snow has fallen in the Twin Cities. That is about 4.5 inches below average, according to the Minnesota Climatology Office.