Storm expected to bring rain, snow to dry Arizona

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix area was expected Friday to receive its first noticeable precipitation in more than two months, bringing a measure of relief to the region parched by drought.

Widespread rain and some mountain snow were forecast across Arizona through Sunday as a storm that has already hit California moves eastward, the National Weather Service said.

Metropolitan Phoenix has gone 69 days without any significant rain. However, meteorologist Ken Waters said that streak isn't anything out of the ordinary for this time of the year in the desert.

"It's a bit of a long streak yes but we've actually had some that were longer," Waters said.

Still, the dry winter months have left Phoenix's main reservoir system at low levels. The reservoirs are typically filled before spring with runoff from snowmelt. Lake Roosevelt, the biggest in the system, is only 48 percent full, Waters said.

Forecasters said rain through Sunday morning could total nearly 1 inch in Phoenix, 2-3 inches in Flagstaff and Payson, and nearly 1 inch in Tucson.

The impact from incoming weekend rain would be minimal in terms of the water supply, said Scott Harelson, a spokesman for the Salt River Project, the Phoenix area's major water provider. He said SRP's reservoir system is only about 50 percent full.

"We're not anticipating a lot of runoff. The reason is the watershed is so dry right now," Harelson said. "From a water storage perspective, we'll take whatever we can get."

The rain could put a damper on several outdoor events scheduled around the city this weekend, including the Phoenix Marathon, a downtown Phoenix Mardi Gras Parade and a beer festival in Tempe.

In Scottsdale, where several Major League Baseball teams had spring training games on Friday, out-of-town visitors enjoying sunny skies in the early afternoon were unfazed by the possibility of rain.

Dan Novak, 36, from Minneapolis, said he has no complaints about the forecast.

"Not from where we're from. When I left this morning, it was 9 below," Novak said.

Forecasters say snow levels at elevations above 6,000 feet will range from 2 to 6 inches with higher amounts possible in some areas. Flagstaff, at an elevation of 7,000 feet, could get between 2 and 5 inches of snow on Saturday, Waters said.

The weather service said the risk of flooding is low.


Associated Press writer Paul Davenport contributed to this report.

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