The first impacts of a powerful winter storm that’ll affect Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin this weekend will be felt late Friday, before the strongest part of the storm arrives Saturday night through Sunday morning.

A winter storm watch has been expanded from southeast Minnesota and now covers nearly the entire southern third of the state.

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NWS Twin Cities

Here’s the breakdown of what to expect within the watch, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

“The heaviest snow is expected to fall along and east of I-35 Saturday evening and Saturday night. Expect a narrow band 4 to 8 inches of snow from Albert Lea, through Red Wing Minnesota and Ladysmith Wisconsin. Northwest winds will increase Saturday night into Sunday, with gusts as high as 40 to 45 mph. This will lead to significant blowing and drifting snow, and reduced visibilities. The strongest winds will be in Minnesota, and blizzard conditions are possible.

Meanwhile areas to the west of I-35 will see less snow, but we still expect northwest wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph starting after midnight Saturday night and lasting into Sunday afternoon. There is a very deep snowpack across the region, and significant blowing and drifting snow is likely to develop. This could lead to whiteout conditions, making travel very difficult or impossible in the open areas of western, central, and southern Minnesota. A winter storm watch has been issued for possible blizzard conditions Saturday night into Sunday.”

Friday night through Saturday morning

The first impact will come in the form of light snow. Totals of 2-3 inches are possible in western /northwest Minnesota with totals less to the south and east.

Temps will be warm enough Saturday morning for a wintry mix to lay down a coating of ice before the bulk of the storm arrives later.

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NWS Twin Cities

Saturday afternoon through Sunday midday

This is when things ramp up with an intensifying storm system that’ll bring a very intense band of snow through southeast Minnesota. Where that narrow band of accumulating snow tracks will determine who gets in on the biggest snow totals.

“The winter storm for Saturday night and Sunday is going to be one of the strongest we’ve seen this winter,” the NWS Twin Cities said in a tweet. “Winds should easily gust 40-45 mph. This could lead to blizzard conditions, especially in open areas. Confidence is increasing in significant travel impacts.”

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NWS Twin Cities

The Twin Cities has a 38 percent chance while the higher chances of 60-75 percent are from Albert Lea to Rochester and Red Wing. Of course, these numbers could change dramatically with any slight shift in the storm’s track.

Here’s the GFS (American) computer model simulation from 6 p.m. Friday through 6 p.m. Sunday.