Parts of Valley dusted white as storm smacks high country
What could be Arizona’s last major winter storm of the season moved through the state on Thursday and is expected to bring rain to the Phoenix area and heavy snowfall to many areas in the state’s high country on Friday.
Snow fell in Cave Creek, rain drizzled throughout Phoenix and roads closed due to ‘treacherous’ conditions in Flagstaff.
“Surprisingly if you live here through enough winters, it really isn’t too uncommon see a dusting of snow across that portion of the Valley,” said Andrew Deemer, a Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Phoenix.
“What I think overall might be more unusual might be how much snow everyone is getting throughout a wide portion of the state,” he said.
Deemer said Phoenix may get up to 2 inches of rain while the Flagstaff area could get more than 2 feet of snow.
“Usually you don’t see such a wide swath of the state get that much
State officials recommended that drivers avoid traveling to northern Arizona on Thursday and Friday if possible. Snow levels are expected to drop to about 3,000 feet.
According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, DPS, in four northern districts, handled 152 calls for stuck vehicles and slide-offs and 28 non-injury and injury crashes since 3 a.m.
“It’s the type of snowstorm that really covers the vehicles and I’d say a lot of the cars that I’m seeing have more than a foot a snow on top of them,” said Doug Nintzel an Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman. “The roads are, quite frankly, treacherous across much of the region.”
Nintzel, who normally works in the valley said he traveled up north to keep an eye on the storm.
“In hearing the weather forecast as we were heading into the storm, this was seen as one of the more powerful storms that was going to enter Arizona in the past 10 or 15 years,” Nintzel said.
According to the NWS in Flagstaff, at around 11:20 a.m., Flagstaff Airport recorded 22.3 inches of snow, smashing the daily record of 10 inches set back in 1944 and are quickly approaching the all-time daily record snowfall for Flagstaff of 31 inches set in 1915.
There have been a number of road closures all over Arizona due to the inclement weather.
“We have had sections of Interstate 40 in northwestern Arizona that have been closed because of snow and ice on the roadways and so that points to another example that this is a very powerful storm,” Nintzel said.
According to Nintzel, ADOT has a fleet of 200 snow plows, 60 of which are currently deployed in the Flagstaff area.
“The snow plow operators are doing the best they can, but we still have snowpack and icy conditions throughout the area,” Nintzel said. “We’re at a point where we’re recommending that drivers try their best not to be out on the highways, especially in the high countries because of the ice and snow. We’re, quite frankly, recommending that travelers delay their travel.”
The Coconino County Sheriff ’s Office released a warning Thursday evening to backcountry mountain travelers to be alert for potential avalanche hazards on all through one storm,” Deemer the San Francisco Peaks.
“Avalanche mitigation and patrolling is conducted within the Arizona Snowbowl, but there is no avalanche control or routine patrolling in the forest outside of the Snowbowl,” the release said. “Those traveling into the backcountry need to be prepared for and understand the conditions prior to venturing out.”
Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli signed a proclamation declaring a state of emergency about 9:15 a.m. Thursday in connection with a winter storm that has dumped a significant amount of snow across higher elevations in Arizona.
The proclamation is in accordance with ARS 26-311 and allows for Prescott city officials to seek reimbursement if and when an emergency or disaster declaration is made at the state or federal level, according to the city’s website.
Prescott could receive between 17 and 23 inches of snow from the storm Thursday and Friday, city officials posted online.
“Residents are urged to stay off the streets and avoid driving during this storm to allow emergency and public service vehicles to travel as freely as possible,” according to Prescott’s website.
While snow has covered much of northern Arizona and even in Cave Creek, it’s highly unlikely Phoenix will see any snow, Deemer said.
“Right now, it’s still pretty warm in the Valley and the snow levels right over us are still a bit high, so I’ll never say never. I’ve seen snowflakes fall in town on more than one occasion but for today it looks a bit too warm for most folks in the valley see any kind of snow,” Deemer said.
Temperatures dropped to 44 degrees in Phoenix with scattered rain all day Thursday.
“This might be the last cold punch,” Deemer said. “It’s trending that way, but sometimes March can deliver a surprise, but this might be it.”
Above: Snow covers cactuses in Carefree. ROB SCHUMACHER/THE REPUBLIC Top: Snow blanketed the streets of downtown Flagstaff, as more than 22 inches accumulated Thursday. THOMAS HAWTHORNE/THE REPUBLIC
Sienna Chapman and Aldo Bransky carry their children as they walk through the snow in downtown Flagstaff on Thursday. Flagstaff Airport recorded more than 22 inches of snow, smashing the record of 10 inches.
Snow covers a Scottsdale golf course on Thursday.