Arizona in grips of freezing weather

Posted: Updated:
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- A storm rolling in over the weekend will keep northern Arizona in the grips of freezing temperatures, bringing more snow and making travel a little tricky.

Phoenix residents could see a dusting of snow in the surrounding mountains as snow levels drop to 3,000 feet Saturday into Sunday. Several inches of snow could fall in the higher terrain.

The cold, low pressure system that has settled over the West will keep residents bundled up until early next week. Officials are reminding folks to cover sensitive plants or bring them indoors, make sure that pets have a warm spot to sleep and keep pipes heated to at least 40 degrees to prevent them from freezing.

The cold weather is normal for this time of year, but the duration of chilly temperatures that will dip below zero in some parts of northern Arizona is what makes the recent and upcoming days "on the cold end of normal," said David Blanchard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff.

Freeze warnings are in effect until Friday morning for Pima, Santa Cruz and parts of Pinal counties. Northwestern Arizona and other desert areas of the state will experience the first freezing temperatures this season. A hard freeze warning, characterized by sub-freezing temperatures over a number of hours, was issued for cities including Lake Havasu City and Kingman and expires Friday morning.

The Coconino National Forest is closing the main roads in its Mogollon Rim Ranger District starting Monday to keep them from becoming damaged due to the weather. Anyone who has a Christmas tree permit for that area must cut their trees by Sunday.

Tucson street crews were busy Thursday preparing for the weather by coating about 70 bridge decks with magnesium chloride to keep ice from sticking to roadways.

In the far southwestern part of the state where most of the supply of winter lettuce sold throughout the United States and Canada originates, growers aren't fretting, said Kurt Nolte, a Yuma-based agricultural agent for the University of Arizona. Lettuce is a hardy crop that diminishes in quality when temperatures fall below 25 degrees but doesn't die easily, he said.

Yuma is expecting nighttime lows in the upper 30s through the weekend.

The weather isn't nearly as frigid as the record cold snap that hit much of the West in January, taking a toll on water pipes and lettuce crops, and testing people's patience in warm-weather cities like Phoenix.

"Overall, it's refreshing to a few people that we finally get some cooler temperatures after going through a hot summer," said NWS service meteorologist Valerie Meyers in Phoenix.

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