A winter storm is expected to dump up to a foot of snow from south-central Minnesota into western Wisconsin beginning later Monday afternoon into Tuesday, the National Weather Service reported Sunday.

The Twin Cities area is likely to see a smaller yet still potentially significant amount — perhaps enough to trigger the first snow emergencies of the season.

The first flakes are expected to fall in the south metro about 4 p.m., fueling hopes that the first part of the evening commute will be largely trouble-free, meteorologist Jacob Beitlich said. The north metro can expect to see snow about 5 to 6 p.m., he added.

Come Tuesday, metro area residents may be shoveling 5 to 9 inches or more, and having to make plans to keep cars clear of plows — and impound lots.

The city of St. Paul says on its website that snow emergencies are “typically declared after snowfalls of 3 inches or more.” Minneapolis offers no such guidance when it comes to inch counts — only a promise that any snow emergency that may be required will be “called after significant snowfall and before 6 p.m. on any given day.”

Forecasters were finding it difficult Sunday to project the snowfall amounts for the metro.

That is because the storm will be at its strongest when it hits the southern part of the state near Albert Lea and begins to move to the north and east through Red Wing to Chippewa Falls, Wis.

It is expected to weaken as it reaches the Twin Cities, but “if it hangs together,” Beitlich said, the snow totals could move nearer to the 9-inch mark.

Motorists should be on alert in the southern part of the state. There, the snow will fall at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour, making it difficult for plows to keep pace. In addition, winds are expected to reach 15 to 20 miles per hour with gusts of up to 30 mph, Beitlich said.

“It’ll be pretty tough driving,” he added.

The National Weather Service expects temperatures to drop by the middle of the week with highs in the teens — chilly enough for the snow to stick around “but not extreme by any means,” Beitlich said. The typical high for the final week of the year is 23 to 24 degrees, he added.

For snow emergency information, go online to stpaul.gov/snow and minneapolismn.gov/snow.