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Central Indiana is bracing for what could be its worst blizzard in nearly four years.

At 6 a.m., the National Weather Service was predicting inches of snow in the Indianapolis area during the daytime hours, with winds expected to reach nearly 40 mph. Snow began falling after 5 a.m.; it was expected to continue until 7 p.m., with road conditions at their worst during afternoon rush hour.

The storm has a chance to eclipse the area’s record for day-after-Christmas snowfall of 9.5 inches, set in 1895.

The forecast kicked local government officials into full-on storm preparation mode on Christmas Day.

First, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard declared that city government offices would be closed today and asked nonessential city employees — essentially everyone but public safety personnel — to stay home from work.

Hours later, the city’s “Snow Force” announced a full deployment of the most essential of workers at times like this: snowplow drivers. The call went out to 118 drivers, asking them to salt roads and bridges before the snow started and clear the roads once it got going.

They were asked to report for duty starting at 11 p.m. Tuesday and work shifts of up to 12 hours. Meanwhile, contractors were ready to deploy up to 350 plows to take care of residential neighborhoods. The state’s highway department will have 70 of its own plows on the road in Indianapolis and as many as 100 others clearing major roads in the surrounding area.

As officials do their work outside, residents are encouraged to stay inside and to stay abreast of official updates.