FARGO — Forecasters now have increased confidence that a widespread post-Thanksgiving snowstorm could dump 8 or more inches over an area that includes Fargo-Moorhead.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for a wide area of eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, effective Friday evening, Nov. 29, through late Saturday night, Nov. 30.

Weather service forecasters have high certainty that there will be widespread moderate to heavy snow in portions of the Dakotas into Minnesota, with widespread travel impacts Friday night, Saturday and into Sunday.

Although there is uncertainty about forecast details, heavy snow is possible, with total snow accumulations of 11 to 16 inches possible in some areas, with the highest probabilities in eastern North Dakota, especially in the southeast.

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Travel difficulties are likely to start Thursday evening and persist through part of Sunday, with the storm's intensity peaking late Friday night through late Saturday night, the weather service said in a situation report issued Wednesday.

Details according to the weather service’s forecast:

  • Thursday night through Friday: 1 to 3 inches of snow, with light freezing rain possible in areas. Areas impacted: eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.

  • Friday night through Sunday: Heavy snow and blowing snow, with the potential for widespread snowfall accumulations of 8 inches or more. Areas impacted: eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.

Precipitation will start to move into the area from the southwest on Thursday evening, which could fall as freezing drizzle, according to the weather service.

Light snow mixing with freezing rain is expected late Thursday night, lasting through the day on Friday. Temperatures on Friday are expected to hover around freezing, causing mixed precipitation.

The mix of snow and freezing rain Friday is forecast to change to all snow through the nighttime hours, intensifying Saturday morning. Heavy snow is expected to persist through Saturday and into Saturday night.

"There is definitely potential for 8 to 12 inches," said Brittany Peterson, a weather service meteorologist. A large area of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota have high probabilities of receiving at least 4 inches of snow, with lesser amounts in the far north.

Blizzard conditions are possible, but there is still uncertainty about wind speed. There will be blowing and drifting snow, with reduced visibility, Peterson said.

WDAY meteorologists expect to have preliminary snow forecasts sometime Thursday. But computer models still are split about where precipitation will fall as rain, freezing rain or snow, meteorologist Andrew Whitmyer said. Snow totals will be greatly reduced in areas where precipitation falls as rain, he said.

"By (Thursday) night we'll have a better grasp on where that freezing line is going to be," Whitmyer said. WDAY meteorologists will revise their forecasts as the prediction models gain greater clarity, he said.

Snow will become lighter Sunday, tapering off in the afternoon. Winds also will progressively diminish Sunday.

Travel will likely still be difficult Sunday, especially in areas that receive freezing rain, Whitmyer said. "It's still going to be tough travel," he said.

People should consider alternate travel plans, the weather service said. If you must travel, have a winter survival kit handy.