A winter storm warning was issued for regions of high elevation in Arizona as the state prepared for the first of two winter storms beginning Saturday evening, according to the National Weather Service.
Northern Arizona through the White Mountains and regions above 5,000 feet in elevation were among those affected by the storm warning. A high wind warning will take effect in the White Mountains at 11 p.m. Saturday and will last until 8 a.m. Sunday.
About 8 to 12 inches of snowfall were expected in areas along the high country between Saturday evening and Sunday. Snow levels will reach 6,000 to 6,500 feet Saturday night before falling to 5,000 to 6,000 feet on Sunday.
Flagstaff can expect between 2 and 3 feet of snow to accumulate by Tuesday evening, according to estimates from the National Weather Service.
A winter storm warning was in effect in Flagstaff on Saturday, and winter weather advisories were issued in the Coconino Plateau, Yavapai County Mountains, Northern Gila County, White Mountains and the Chuska Mountains.
Hazardous travel conditions were expected to start Saturday night and last through Tuesday in the upper northern and eastern parts of the state, with possible whiteout conditions expected through midday Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in Flagstaff.
“The impacts we’re really focusing on for this upcoming winter weather is hazardous travel Saturday through Tuesday, with particularly difficult driving the late Saturday portion through early Sunday,” said Paige Swenson, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff.
Snow management will be difficult as snow continuously compounds as a result of few breaks between periods of snowfall, according to Swenson.
“It will be tricky to keep everything plowed,” Swenson said.
Swenson also warned spotty power outages could result from the winter storms in the northern and eastern parts of the state.
Broken tree limbs and the potential for rockslides in highly prone areas around Oak Creek Canyon, Highway 89 and south of Black Canyon City were also issues of concern, according to Swenson.
The National Weather Service in Flagstaff urged travelers to stay home this weekend.
“Be prepared for additional heavy snow, gusty winds, very cold temperatures and periods of difficult to impossible travel,” the weather service said in a Saturday afternoon tweet.
A combination of strong winds and snowfall could lead to blowing snow and falling tree branches, causing even more hazardous conditions for travel throughout the weekend and into early next week, Swenson said.
The National Weather Service recommended residents “winterize” their vehicle, pack an emergency supply kit and avoid all nonessential travel during the high-impact winter storm periods, which will occur Saturday through Tuesday.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety recommended keeping the following items in a winter weather emergency supply kit:
- Cellphone and charger
- Winter clothing/blankets
- Prescribed medication
- First-aid kit
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Ice scraper
- A small bag of sand or cat litter for wheel traction
- Compact shovel for snow removal
- Travel tool kit and battery cables
- Safety flares
- Nonperishable snacks
- Road map
Conditions were expected to improve starting Wednesday and Thursday of next week, but lingering showers could stick around through the end of the week, according to the weather service.
Rain, cooler temperatures on deck for Phoenix, southern Arizona
Southern Arizona and Phoenix can expect rainfall and below-average temperatures throughout the weekend, persisting on and off through Wednesday.
Residents in lower desert regions can expect to see water flowing in normally dry washes and the potential flooding of low roads, according to Swenson.
“This can definitely still lead to difficult traveling conditions, especially if you’re on any dirt roads or unpaved roads in general,” Swenson said.
Residents can refer to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s safety tips for best practices when driving in the rain.
The second winter storm, set to hit on Monday, will bring cooler temperatures to Phoenix and Tucson throughout the weekend continuing through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service in Phoenix.
“Most lower desert locations will have highs in the 50s on Tuesday,” said the weather service.
Dry conditions are expected to return to the lower desert regions starting Thursday, but temperatures will remain cool, according to the weather service. Low temperatures were expected to be colder than last week with lows in the 30s.