Northern AZ braces for next dump of winter snow

Posted at 1:51 PM, Jan 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-07 04:19:54-05

Northern Arizona residents braced for another round of heavy snow in a series of El Nino-related storms that already has the region looking like a winter wonderland.

Several major roadways closed temporarily Wednesday because of a rock slide, crashes and slippery conditions. Authorities were discouraging travel Wednesday night and into Thursday.


"Reschedule your trip if you have to go north," Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said. "It will be very slow-going and very hazardous."

ADOT plow trucks continued to criss-cross high country roadways as the second blast of winter weather approached.

ADOT plow operators usually work on 12-hour shifts during winter storms, according to Doug Pacey, an ADOT spokesman.

One plow truck is often shared by two drivers who work opposite shifts, but plow the same route throughout the winter, Pacey said in an email.

That allows the drivers to become familiar with the nuances of their particular route.

More than a foot of snow fell at the Flagstaff airport. The Prescott-area had around 4 inches, and Pinetop-Lakeside had more than 3 inches late Wednesday. The snowfall accumulations could more than double with a storm that will be well underway Thursday and last through Friday, the National Weather Service said.

The forecast calls for up to 16 more inches in Flagstaff, 20 in Williams, a foot in Prescott and Alpine, and several inches around Kingman and in the northeastern corner of the state.

"This last one has the best potential to bring in some moisture," meteorologist Jonathan Suk said.

Schools in Flagstaff, Williams and Prescott either delayed the start of classes or closed Wednesday. With conditions not expected to improve, it's likely students will be out for at another day.

Barb Boznak decided against traveling to Leupp on the Navajo Nation where she works as a teacher because of the hazardous road conditions. After clearing snow from her walkway and car, she decided instead to take a walk, marveling at the snow weighing down trees on her way.

"It's beautiful once you resign yourself to the fact that it's not safe to drive," she said.

Flagstaff gets more than a foot of snow in a single storm every couple of years, meteorologist Brian Klimowski said. Several days of continuous snow measuring more than 30 inches as expected this week is much more rare, he said.

The snowy weather is a big tourist attraction. Droves of people headed to Flagstaff on Wednesday to sled, build snowmen, make snow angels and launch snowballs.

"I love the snow, and I love being in Flagstaff," said Mary Siner of Phoenix, who visited with her two young children.

The Phoenix area, which had minor flooding in washes Wednesday, and Tucson will get more rain the rest of the week.

About 2,000 people in the Flagstaff region, 700 in Scottsdale and about 100 in Prescott were without power early Wednesday because of weather-related equipment failure, Arizona Public Service Co. said. Most residents were back online by early afternoon.