Wild winter storm picking up throughout Arizona

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on December 29, 2010 at 7:30 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 29 at 5:50 PM

FLAGSTAFF and PHOENIX, Ariz. -- The snow and rain have arrived.

It started snowing in Flagstaff at about 5:30 a.m., and it's been coming down pretty steadily since. As of 1 p.m. they had already gotten about 3 inches.

The snow is going to continue through tonight, winding up tomorrow. By the time the storm clears out, Flagstaff will likely have been 10 and 15 inches. The Heber/Pinetop area will likely get between 1 and 2 feet.

Virtually every part of the state is under some kind of weather warning, watch or advisory.

The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning now through 7 p.m. Thursday for the White Mountains,  the Galiuro and Pinaleno Mountains, Catalina and Rincon Mountains and Mount Graham.

In addition to the snow, it's going to get fairly windy. Southwest winds of 30 to 40 mph with gusts to 60 mph are expected Wednesday afternoon diminishing to 15 to 30 mph with gusts to 40 mph Thursday morning. The Flagstaff area is already seeing some of that, with strong gusts between 40 and 50 mph. Those winds probably won't die down until around midnight.

In the Phoenix Metro area, light rain started at about 10 a.m. That rain is expected to pick up in the afternoon and continue through the night and into Thursday. The heaviest showers are still ahead. Between 1/2 inch and 1 inch is possible this afternoon and perhaps this evening.

This front is bringing some extremely cold air into Arizona. The snow level today is above 5,000 feet. That's expected to drop Thursday to about 2,000 feet, which means we could actually see some snow in the northern portion of the Valley early Thursday.

Once the snow and rain have cleared, it's going to get very cold.

According to the NWS, this could be as bad as the killing freeze of January 2007.

The NWS has already issued a freeze watch for Thursday night into Friday morning. Valley temperatures are expected to be in the 20s so that watch could be upgraded to a warning.

Expect more of the same on New Year's Eve.

Temperatures are expected to be below freezing as the calendar flips over to 2011. It will be one of the coldest New Year's celebrations in the 27-year history of the Fiesta Bowl Block Party in Tempe.

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