Schools, highways, businesses and even medical clinics were closed Thursday as a major, record-breaking storm descended on north-central Arizona, dousing areas with around two feet of snow.
The National Weather Service said snow was falling at three to four inches an hour in the “not your average” storm. Snow was expected to fall throughout Thursday and Friday. The service said the airport in Flagstaff broke its Feb. 21 record of 10 inches set in 1944.
“We’re quickly approaching the all-time daily record snowfall for Flagstaff of 31.0 (set in 1915),” the weather service wrote in a tweet.
Coconino County and the city of Prescott declared emergencies. Several roads across Arizona, including snow-packed portions of Interstate 40 and northbound Interstate 17 from Camp Verde to Flagstaff, were closed.
State authorities urged people to avoid travel, and drivers mostly seemed to be heeding the warnings. The Arizona Department of Public Safety said it responded to more than 150 vehicles that slid off the road in the northern part of the state, but no one was killed or seriously injured.
“It’s just really cold, and there’s a lot more moisture than we’d normally see,” weather service meteorologist Tim Steffen said.
Paul Moss and other drivers were chatting about the latest road conditions at a travel center west of Flagstaff, 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.”
But for some, the snow was a fun reprieve.
Arianne Nicole Yago, an admissions officer at Northern Arizona University, is from Hawaii but has spent the past three years in Flagstaff.
“It’s fun from the inside when you’re watching the snow, cause its’ such a different experience. For Hawaiian people, this is like a blessing in such a different world. But when you do drive, it is a little scary,” Yago said.