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'Crippling storm' potential could impact Christmas travel plans

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FARGO—The potential for a "crippling storm" this Christmas holiday weekend could cause travel problems throughout the region.

A big weather system coming through Sunday, Christmas Day, has the "potential to be a genuinely crippling storm" for a large swath of the area, according to WDAY Chief Meteorologist John Wheeler.

He said it's still too early to know which specific areas will be impacted by potential blizzard conditions or freezing rain. Some areas could see mixed precipitation, he said.

Temperatures will dip for the peak of the storm expected for Sunday and Monday.

Jim Kaiser with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks said, "There's a pretty good chance that most areas will get some snow. It's just a matter of who gets the heavier, shovelable snow as opposed to the lighter few inches."

Kaiser said the system has already "slowed down a little bit" as snow was in the forecast for Saturday but now it looks like that evening "will remain dry."

Depending on the track of the system, some areas could see sleet or freezing rain, which would bring less snow to those areas "but still the impact is just as bad if it was heavy snow," Kaiser said.

There are two likely scenarios for the holiday storm:

The first track could go through Fargo, bringing snow to central and western North Dakota, with rain impacting areas farther southeast of the region down in Minneapolis.

The second track runs through central Minnesota, which would bring snow to more of the Red River Valley, including areas east and south of Fargo all the way into lakes country.

The weather outlook as of Tuesday, Dec. 20, shows the best days to travel will be Thursday and Friday, while strong winds on Wednesday could cause some visibility issues with drifting snow and slippery patches on the roads.

Don't cancel any holiday plans, Wheeler said, but prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

"Know what's happening before you hit the road," he said.

Meteorologists said this system will evolve throughout the week and folks should pay attention to latest forecast updates.

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