Winter storm brings record snowfall to parts of Arizona

Clark County School District in southern Nevada, the nation’s fifth-largest, cancelled classes

A winter storm that swept through the Southwest and brought a rare snowfall to the Las Vegas Strip and the mountains above Malibu in California pounded north-central Arizona with record amounts.

The Clark County School District in southern Nevada, the nation’s fifth-largest, is cancelling classes Friday because of the weather. In northern Arizona, schools, government offices, airports and roads were expected to be closed for a second day as the storm tapers off.

Residents in northern Arizona will be digging out from what the National Weather Service characterized as “not your average” storm.

“It is by no means over for us,” said meteorologist Mark Stubblefield in Flagstaff. “It’s still dangerous to travel.”

The snow began late Wednesday and didn’t let up Thursday, falling at 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10.2 centimetres) an hour in parts of Arizona. The National Weather Service said that rate will fall by about half Friday. Officials will turn their concerns to local streets that didn’t get plowed, overburdened roofs and freezing temperatures expected into the weekend.

Flagstaff on Thursday had a new single-day snowfall record of 35.9 inches (91.2 centimetres) at the airport and had to shut down its only runway because of zero visibility. The record set in 1915 was 31 inches (78.7 centimetres).

Phoenix on Thursday set a record for the day with 1.01 inch (2.57 centimetre) of rain, eclipsing the old mark of 0.73 inch (1.85 centimetres) set in 1973.

Outlying areas in higher elevations of the northern outskirts of metro Phoenix had light snowfall, which National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Deemer said Friday is not uncommon.

The National Weather Service in Las Vegas tweeted in response to its counterpart in Flagstaff that the .5 inches (1.27 centimetres) of snow recorded there broke its previous record of zero.

Clark County school officials say classes for roughly 320,000 students will be cancelled due to the possibility of freezing temperatures making roads unsafe for buses.

READ MORE: Snowman pops up on Vegas Strip as city sees rare winter weather

McCarran International Airport spokeswoman Christine Crews said she tallied about 100 flight cancellations because of snow and ice. The storm has brought the first significant snowfall at the airport in a decade with 0.8 inch (2 centimetre) by Thursday afternoon.

The rare snowfall prompted revelers to erect a snowman near the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.

“We expected cold, but not snow,” tourist Lila de Guerrero said after taking a photo at the sign wearing a puffer jacket and hat.

The storm also dropped snow in the Santa Monica Mountains above the Malibu coast and coated large areas of desert northeast of Los Angeles.

“No need to panic Los Angeles — the LAPD is on snow watch,” the city’s police department tweeted, along with video of a light flurry.

Authorities closed portions of the main routes from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and Phoenix because of snow, ice and limited visibility.

Several roads across Arizona, including northbound Interstate 17 for about 40 miles (64 kilometres) south of Flagstaff, were closed. The Arizona Department of Public Safety said no one died or was seriously injured in the more than 250 calls it handled in the northern portion of the state.

The cities of Flagstaff and Prescott, and Coconino County declared emergencies. Officials said snow plows struggled to keep routes clear and there was “significant concern” about the weight on rooftops.

The roads were eerily quiet throughout the day and the storm essentially shut down towns across the region. Payson, about 90 miles (144.8 kilometres) northeast of Phoenix, gets an average annual snowfall of about 2 feet (0.6 metres). It hit that amount Thursday, closing roads in and out of town and leaving travellers stranded.

Paul Moss and other drivers were chatting about the latest road conditions at a travel centre west of Flagstaff on Thursday, where semi-trailers were stuck waiting to fuel up. Moss said he could drive in the snow but prefers not to do so.

“Sometimes it’s just unsafe. You need to shut down,” said the Los Banos, California, resident, who was hauling a truckload of oranges. “I’ve got a family to go home to. My family is more important than freight.”

AP writers Ken Ritter, Michelle Price and Regina Garcia Cano in Las Vegas; Terry Tang, Paul Davenport and Astrid Galvan in Phoenix; and Christopher Weber and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Felicia Fonseca, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

GALLERY: Fernie hosts mine rescue competition

Fording River, Line Creek mine rescue teams off to provincials after placing first and second

Fernie beer named Canada’s best pale ale

Fernie Brewing Company’s Campout West Coast Pale finishes first at the Canadian Brewing Awards

Cannabis yoga a budding trend in Fernie

Yoga studio, cannabis educator team up to offer Fernie’s first cannabis yoga classes from May 17

Sparwood’s Momma Di a mother to many

The Free Press competition winner revealed; plus Mother’s Day around the Valley

An Everest fundraiser

Man set to climb elevation of Mt. Everest in one day to raise school lunch funds

Kelowna RCMP interrogation video brings home reality in ‘visceral way’: former TRC chairman

Video of Mountie interrogating young Indigenous woman disclosing sexual abuse under fire

UPDATE: Aggressive coyote moves to Sparwood

Residents urged not to feed or approach the animal

City of Fernie to hold referendum for multi-purpose centre loan

Council opts for assent voting after petition calling for a referendum garners over 500 signatures

Update: Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Full-scale search underway for missing kayaker on Okanagan Lake

Kelowna Paddle Centre member Zygmunt Janiewicz, 71, failed to return from his ‘daily kayak’ on the lake

Most Read