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Travel alert: Douglas County faces snowstorm warning; 20 or more inches possible

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You may want to reconsider your holiday travel plans.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for Douglas County and seven other counties in the region starting early Christmas Eve morning and continuing through this Saturday.

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A significant storm system is expected to impact the upper Midwest starting as early as Wednesday night and continue through Friday night.

Snowfall accumulations are likely to total a foot over parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin and 20 or more inches are possible, according to the weather service.

"Due to the strength of this system and the prolonged period for which snowfall is expected, there will be major impacts to travelers, especially due to the upcoming holiday," states the warning from the weather service.

The warning is in effect from 6 a.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Saturday and includes the following counties: Douglas, Todd, Morrison, Mille Lacs, Kanabec, Stevens, Pope and Benton.

The exact track of the storm and the timing of it are not entirely clear but the storm is expected to lead to a broad area of heavy snow with some sleet and freezing rain.

Weather experts describe the storm pattern as complex with several bouts of precipitation expected.

The first stage of the storm is likely to develop Wednesday afternoon and spread northward across the upper Midwest. This wave has abundant warm air associated with it so there may be a mixture of sleet and freezing rain as far north as the Minnesota-Iowa border.

The next wave is expected to impact the area Thursday afternoon through early Friday morning with wind speeds increasing from the north.

The last wave will likely be the wrap-around moisture, which will occur Friday afternoon as the storm system begins to depart the region.

The precise timing of each wave of significant snowfall is still uncertain and lighter precipitation will likely occur during any lulls.

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