Arizona Buckles Down for Rare Blizzard

The National Weather Service has issued a rare blizzard warning for the mountains of northern Arizona as a huge winter storm barrels in from the West Coast. The warning is in effect from 8 a.m. Monday through noon Tuesday. CBS

Snow is falling in parts of northern Arizona as a powerful winter storm moves into the region.

The KNXV-TV current weather conditions report says Flagstaff is being hit with flurries and the snowfall and winds are expected to increase dramatically throughout the day.

CBS News affiliate KPHO-TV in Phoenix reports that five to seven inches of snow could fall in Flagstaff.

The National Weather Service has issued a rare blizzard warning for the mountains of northern Arizona from 8 a.m. Monday through noon Tuesday.

Meteorologist Robert Bohlin in Flagstaff says forecasters are predicting 1 to 2 feet of snow for elevations above 6,000 feet.

Southwest winds of 30 mph with gusts of up to 50 mph will create blowing and drifting snow conditions making it hard for snowplow crews, so drivers are being advised to stay home Monday if they can.

Bohlin said blizzards are uncommon in northern Arizona because "we typically don't have all the criteria necessary to get conditions going."

"And typically that's strong winds, extremely low visibilities and lots of snow for at least three hours," he said.

The forecaster said winds from the southwest at 20 to 35 mph with gusts of up to 50 mph will create blowing and drifting snow conditions making it hard for Arizona Department of Transportation snowplow crews to keep up.

Drivers were advised to stay home Monday if they don't have to drive in the high country. Travel conditions are expected to improve Tuesday afternoon.

Meteorologist Justin Johndrow with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff said a separate winter storm warning is in effect above 5,000 feet and includes the White Mountains of eastern Arizona.

The blizzard warning area extends from the San Francisco Peaks across much of the Mogollon Rim and almost to the White Mountains, above 6,000 feet, Bohlin said.

The first snow was expected to begin falling late Sunday with the brunt of the storm slamming Flagstaff through Monday night and into early Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Transportation Department road crews plan to be out in force plowing Monday and Tuesday, but drivers were told that many roads will become impassable because of blowing snow.

The department said the budget deficit, created by $500 million in diverted transportation funds and declining revenue, has hit a variety of services like highway maintenance, which includes snowplowing.

The agency's response to individual storm events will vary based upon the severity of the storm and the availability of people and equipment to respond.
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