After the past week's blessed respite from a brutal winter, the hammer is coming back down.

A full foot of snow -- and maybe more -- was headed for the Twin Cities early Sunday, while a near-blizzard was predicted for much of central and southern Minnesota.

Late Saturday, Star Tribune meteorologist Paul Douglas upped his expected snow totals to 12 to 18 inches by midday Monday.

The system could rival the Dec. 10-11 storm, when 17.1 inches fell. Said Douglas: "Lightning, or in this case heavy snow, may strike twice this year. Good grief."

The snow was expected to start falling Sunday morning, with the heaviest snow into Sunday night, Douglas said.

As of Saturday night, Delta Air Lines had canceled 200 flights out of the Twin Cities for Sunday.

"We expect this to be a significant storm," said Delta spokesman Anthony Black.

Some retailers reported a brisk business Saturday night ahead of the storm.

The customer service manager at Cub Foods on University Avenue in St. Paul said the store had double the normal traffic as people stocked up. "They're doing all their week's shopping today," he said. "They're doing $100 orders and up."

Tina Huffer, head cashier at the Menard's in Brooklyn Park, said she saw good traffic in sales of shovels, salt and bottled water.

In a swath from Granite Falls to Hutchinson to the south metro area and as far east as Eau Claire, Wis., the National Weather Service was predicting that the storm will ultimately dump as much as a foot of snow.

Accompanying the storm were predicted winds of between 15 and 30 miles per hour, which will whip the storm into near-blizzard conditions.

For the most of Minnesota, the Weather Service's winter storm warning remains in effect until Monday morning.

If there is any consolation to this expected mess, it might be this: Many government and school employees will be off work on Monday in observance of Presidents' Day, with fewer cars on the road while road crews push the latest snowfall aside.

Staff writer Jennifer Bjorhus contributed to this report. Bob von Sternberg • 612-673-7184