Biggest snowstorm of season ends winter, ushers in spring

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
Little America in Flagstaff on Sunday morning By Mike Gertzman Little America in Flagstaff on Sunday morning By Mike Gertzman
A backyard in the Timberline neighborhood of Flagstaff on Sunday morning By Mike Gertzman A backyard in the Timberline neighborhood of Flagstaff on Sunday morning By Mike Gertzman
Snow in Flagstaff on Sunday morning By Mike Gertzman Snow in Flagstaff on Sunday morning By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Flagstaff schools were closed Monday because of the weather. Northern Arizona University also canceled classes for the day.

In Show Low, all schools canceled classes because of heavy snowfall in eastern Arizona and the White Mountains.

Coconino County authorities issued a rare avalanche warning for anyone venturing into the backcountry areas of northern Arizona.
The sheriff's office says recent heavy snowfall and strong winds can create avalanche hazards in mountain backcountry areas. Authorities say unstable snow conditions can develop and remain hazardous for some time.

The snow that has fallen in the high country from a late winter storm this weekend is being measured in feet not inches. More than 5 feet of snow fell in some areas while in parts of the Valley the storm dropped more than 1 inch of rain and even some hail.

After a chilly night with Valley temperatures in the 30s and 40s, the rain here and snow in the high country was expected to continue off and on throughout Monday.

Officials with the Arizona Department of Transportation announced some major road closures Sunday morning but many of those closures were lifted by Sunday evening and by Monday afternoon all state highways were open to traffic.

- Interstate 17 is open in the Flagstaff area, although drivers are urged to use caution due to icy conditions in some areas.

- Interstate 40 is open to traffic in both directions across Arizona. The highway had been closed in various locations since Sunday, but crews were able to open eastbound I-40 between Ash Fork and Williams Monday morning.

- ADOT crews also reopened U.S. 180 between Kendrick Park and the State Route 64 junction Monday afternoon, after removing snow drifts that had built up along the highway northwest of the entrance to Arizona Snow Bowl.

- No closures are reported along major highways in the Payson, Heber, Show Low or Globe areas. Drivers are still urged to be prepared for winter driving conditions along state routes 87 and 260 as well as U.S. 60.

According to Trudy Thompson Rice with the American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter, the organization is mobilizing volunteers to open a shelter in Yavapai County saying storm-related power outages have created a need for assistance. 

The storm brought good news for skiers and snowboarders. The Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff reported 3 feet of new snow while Sunrise Ski Park in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona got more than 9 inches of new snow.

The storm did not force organizers of the Phoenix Brain Tumor Walk at Steele Indian School Park to cancel the event. Other events, however, around the Valley were canceled or delayed. The spring training baseball game at Peoria Sports Complex was stopped in the fifth inning. The LPGA RR Donnelley Founders Cup Tournament at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge was suspended at least twice for lightning.

When the wind and clouds from the late winter storm rolled into Arizona they brought a swift and significant change from just two days ago when temperatures where in the 80s.

This storm had been forecasted for days and those forecasts appear to be right on target.

In Payson the rain switched over to snow on Sunday morning. We have reports of snow from 3TV viewers coming from Wilhoit, Chino Valley, Heber, and Prescott Valley. Winslow and Tuba city also got snow.

3TV reporter Mike Watkiss is in Flagstaff where he said the snow started coming down at about 3 a.m. on Sunday. He talked to some people who were out on the roads.

"The roads are icy. I wouldn't advise getting on it but I got to get home," said one man who was on his way to Des Moines, Iowa.

"This one is coming in big and heavy. We're having a hard time keeping up," according to a snowplow operator in Flagstaff.

The latest forecast from the National Weather Service in Bellemont calls for between 12 and 22 inches of snow above 7,000 feet. Snow continued through Sunday before diminishing Monday.

Strong winds ahead of the storm reached 61 mph in Parks earlier Saturday.

Winds continued at 20 to 30 mph throughout the storm, and blowing and drifting snow caused extremely dangerous driving conditions. There were reports of numerous slide-offs and accidents.

Residents were urged to postpone all nonessential travel during the storm.

Get the latest forecast for your neighborhood

Arizona Department of Public Safety: Major winter storm to impact travel this weekend