Significant snow could fall in the Twin Cities metro area later this week. Or across southern Minnesota. Or maybe not.
What forecasters can say with 100 percent certainty is that some places will get clobbered with a healthy dumping of snow, and that all Minnesotans will be shivering come Christmas Day, as the mercury will struggle to move above zero.
"It's waffling back and forth," National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Taggart said of the pending storm, noting the storm track easily could shift a bit farther north or south. "It will have a major impact somewhere."
With anywhere from a dusting to a snow-shoveling 4 to 6 inches on tap for Thursday's Winter Solstice, the forecast is tailor-made to raise anxiety levels of holiday travelers trying to time their getaway to miss inclement weather.
"It just adds a little fun part to this time of year," said Mark Hedin, owner of Minneapolis-based Travel Guy, who is telling his clients who are traveling from outside the metro area to book a hotel near the airport in case of inclement weather.
The Weather Service is not being vague on purpose, it says.
It knows that snow will fall, but it just doesn't know where. Or how much.
The Weather Channel says to 4 to 6 inches is possible in the metro area and 3 to 5 inches across southeastern Minnesota Thursday into Friday morning. Locally, the Weather Service is shying away from forecasting exact amounts yet as the storm is still getting organized.
As far as the chill, meteorologist Paul Douglas says it could be the coldest Christmas since 1996, when the low was 22 below in the Twin Cities and the high was 9 below.
Forecasters predict temperatures will start to drop Friday night, with a high of 11 on Saturday and high Sunday of just 5 above. Christmas Day will see a forecast high of 3 below.
Last February the Weather Service predicted that the Twin Cities was supposed to have its biggest snowstorm in six years. But instead of the "potent" snowfall it predicted, nary a flake fell across the metro.
But areas just 50 miles to the southeast were walloped with more than a foot of snow.
The Weather Service apologized to Minnesotans for the missed forecast and said "we promise to evaluate our messaging and forecasts and continually work to provide you with the best information we possibly can."
"You miss a forecast that is off by 50 miles in northern Minnesota and nobody really cares," said Taggart, who is with the Chanhassen office. "Miss it in an area with 3 million people and everybody cares."
As of Monday afternoon, Taggart said it was still unclear exactly where a storm out of Colorado would go as it heads to the Upper Midwest.
The best guess was that heavy amounts of snow could fall anywhere from the Twin Cities and points south and east. Taggart said that's still a bit of a wait-and-see game.
First will come a weather system moving across Washington and Montana Tuesday and into Minnesota Wednesday where it will drop anywhere from a trace to up to 2 inches of snow across the central and northern part of the state.
Behind that comes the storm ready to deliver a healthy dumping of snow somewhere in Minnesota and subzero cold by Christmas Day.
High temperatures by the Monday holiday will struggle to rise above zero in the metro area and the Arctic air will keep a grip on Twin Cities and most of Minnesota right through the New Year.
"That's pretty much guaranteed," Taggart said.
The little snow that is currently on the ground in the Twin Cities will likely disappear by Tuesday as temperatures warm above the melting point for the second straight day, Taggart said.
But even as snow totals make for quite the guessing game, there is no doubt about the bone-chilling air coming behind, Taggart said.
"That is a no-brainer for us," he said. "The big thing we know is that it [the bitter cold] will impact us until the new year for sure."
Staff writer Karen Zamora contributed to this report.