Snow hits high country as Phoenix doused with rain

Arizona saw rain and snow move across the state Wednesday as a winter storm pushed in from the west, closing some roads in the high country including Interstate 17 south of Flagstaff.

Flagstaff saw nearly a foot of snow by midday and mountains in the eastern part of the state are expected to get snow through Thursday morning as the storm moves towards New Mexico.

The metro Phoenix area saw more than a half inch of rain between about 5-11 a.m. and was not expected to see more precipitation as the storm passed on.

"Looking at the radar, it is quite tranquil out west. Just the higher terrain will see rainfall this afternoon," said Gabriel Lojero, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Phoenix.

The rainfall total for the Phoenix area averaged 0.55 of an inch, Lojero said.

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Snow covers trees near Rocky Park Road along the I-17 north of Rimrock on Dec. 28, 2022.
Snow covers trees near Rocky Park Road along the I-17 north of Rimrock on Dec. 28, 2022.

In the Flagstaff area, snow totals were greater than what the Weather Service had predicted the day before. The Flagstaff airport had 11.4 inches of snow as of 11 a.m., according to the weather service office there.

"I think our last forecast for the airport was around 6 to 8 inches. So we did get a little bit more than we expected in this system,” said Carter Humphreys, a meteorologist in Flagstaff.

The northbound lanes of Interstate 17 closed from about the turnoff to Sedona to Flagstaff, the Arizona Department of Transportation reported about 10:30 a.m. State Route 89A from Sedona to Flagstaff also was closed for snow, according to the department.

Things were not much better along the Mogollon Rim, with traffic on snow-covered blacktop slowed to a crawl on State Route 260 east of Payson and State Route 87 north of Pine and Strawberry.

The White Mountains were expecting an additional 2 to 4 inches of snow, with higher elevations such as Mount Baldy expecting up to 8 more inches, Humphreys said.

The week between Christmas and New Year's can be among the busiest of the year for ski resorts, and people who could get to Arizona's mountains Wednesday found lots of fresh snow.

Arizona Snowbowl ski resort near Flagstaff reported 13 inches of snow overnight, though the resort didn't specify whether that was at the top or bottom of the mountain. All lifts were open just before noon and a light snow continued to fall at the base area with the top of the mountain socked in.

Chains or four-wheel drive vehicles were required Wednesday on Snowbowl Road, the mountain reported.

In Eastern Arizona, Sunrise Park Resort had only gotten about 3 inches of snow overnight, according to the mountain patrol. But that ski area was expected to see more snow as the storm passed over throughout the day. Sunrise was reporting just three of its eight lifts operating Wednesday.

Shuttle service was shut down and some roads in Grand Canyon National Park were closed because of weather Wednesday, the Park Service reported. Even so, hikers and fresh tracks in the snow could be seen on the Bright Angel Trail from a live webcam at the park.

Long lines of cars entering Grand Canyon also could be seen on the park's webcams.

The Grand Canyon and Tusayan got from 4 to 5 inches of snow, Humphreys said.

The Bearizona zoo in Williams was closed Wednesday because of the weather. The Grand Canyon Deer Farm petting zoo down the road was open though despite heavy snow on Interstate 40.

Downtown Williams had about 5 inches of snow but higher elevation areas around the city got as much as 9 inches, Humphreys said.

Cars wait in traffic along the I-17 north of Rimrock on Dec. 28, 2022.
Cars wait in traffic along the I-17 north of Rimrock on Dec. 28, 2022.

Reach reporter Ryan Randazzo at or 602-444-4331. Follow him on Twitter @UtilityReporter.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Rain, snow across Arizona close roads