FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP/FOX 10) - Schools across northern Arizona canceled classes and some government offices decided to close amid a winter storm that's expected to dump heavy snow in the region.
As a result of the storm, ADOT officials announced a number of highway closures:
· Northbound I-17 at State Route 179, north of Camp Verde. Traffic diverted onto State Route 179.
· Eastbound I-40 at State Route 95, with traffic detouring south on SR 95
· Both directions of State Route 87 between State Route 188 and Payson, mileposts 238-250, and between Payson and Winslow, mileposts 254-337
· Both directions State Route 260 between Star Valley and Heber-Overgaard, mileposts 256-302, and eastbound State Route 260 east of milepost 228 near Interstate 17
· Both directions of SR 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff, mileposts 375-398
ADOT officials, however, are advising drivers not to travel to Northern Arizona.
Officials with the National Weather Service say Flagstaff's airport has received up to 31.6" of snow for the day, as of 5:00 p.m. Thursday, shattering a previous record set in 1915.
Flagstaff Airport is up to 31.6" of snow for the day as of 5pm! This eclipses the previous all-time daily record for Flagstaff of 31.0" (set in 1915)! We still have 7 more hrs to add to this record. The storm total including before midnight is 33.1" for this event so far. #azwx— NWS Flagstaff (@NWSFlagstaff) February 22, 2019
The massive snowstorm has forced a shutdown of Flagstaff Pulliam Airport.
Airport director Barney Helmick says the airport's only runway closed around 10:30 a.m. Thursday because the visibility level is "zero."
American Airlines, the only major airline out of that airport, has also canceled all flights.
Helmick says he has no idea when the runway will reopen. A crew of about four people is working to clear the snow but it keeps getting more intense.
Schools in Flagstaff, Page, Holbrook, Payson, Kingman and Williams, and on the Hopi reservation have closed because of the storm.
Government facilities, including visitor centers at national monuments and Motor Vehicle Division offices, also will shutter or delay the start of the work day.
As a result of the winter storm, the city of Prescott has declared an emergency.
The weather service and state transportation officials advised drivers to stay off roads during the storm.
If you are considering a trip to Flagstaff or across I-40 cancel it for now. I have attached a couple photos and this is just the beginning. pic.twitter.com/y83BZZFKH1— Col. Frank Milstead (@frank_milstead) February 21, 2019
CLOSED: SR 87 southbound just south of #Payson at milepost 250 because of multiple crashes. Drivers can turn around to get back to Payson.— Arizona DOT (@ArizonaDOT) February 21, 2019
Also, look how slow traffic is on SR 87 because of winter conditions. #aztraffic #azwx pic.twitter.com/1S1kdqmJsF
Avoid travel near Kingman, where 2 highways are closed because of snow, ice, crashes and disabled vehicles.— Arizona DOT (@ArizonaDOT) February 21, 2019
I-40 is closed in both directions at Stockton Hill Road, milepost 51.
US 93 is closed in both directions at Coyote Pass, milepost 69.
No ETA to reopen.#aztraffic #azwx pic.twitter.com/2wtdqxz7xh
This is not your typical winter storm. Snow and ice are affecting I-17 all the way down to just north of Black Canyon City. Chains or 4x4 vehicles are recommended north of the Sedona turnoff (SR 179). Avoid travel during this storm. #aztraffic #azwx pic.twitter.com/UVKCqfPkUo— Arizona DOT (@ArizonaDOT) February 21, 2019
"It would not be out of the question to say we could expect closures on major interstates throughout the day Thursday," meteorologist Emily Thorton said.
The National Weather Service in Flagstaff reports that the airport has received over 22 inches of snow, which breaks a record for February 21.
At around 11:20 AM today, Flagstaff Airport had recorded 22.3" for the Feb 21 calendar day (23.8" storm total). This smashes the daily record of 10.0" in 1944. We're quickly approaching the all-time daily record snowfall for Flagstaff of 31.0" (set in 1915). #azwx— NWS Flagstaff (@NWSFlagstaff) February 21, 2019
The all-time daily record for snowfall in Flagstaff is 31 inches, which was set in 1915.
Bisbee and Oracle in southeastern Arizona could see around a foot of snow.
The school cancellations were welcomed by many children who often turn to superstition to get a snow day off.
As part of their wishful thinking, they typically flush ice cubes down toilets, wear pajamas inside out or place spoons throughout their homes before they go to sleep.
The tactics vary in practice and in reason, but children told the Arizona Daily Sun they don't want to leave anything to chance.
Some children use metal spoons instead of wooden ones. Some put a white crayon or an orange in the freezer, or don underwear as a nightcap. Scarlett Ellison, 10, says using small ice cubes in the toilet is important.
"We used daddy's bourbon ice cubes once, but they are really big and got stuck in the toilet," she said. "We use the right ones because we don't' want another plumbing issue."
The central Arizona deserts are expected to get significant rain, accompanied by temperatures far colder than normal. Phoenix's normal high around this time of the year is 72 degrees but it will drop to nearly 50 degrees.
Daytime temperatures in many parts of northern Arizona will struggle to get above freezing before the weekend, Thorton said.
Flagstaff Unified School District said it takes many factors into account when declaring a snow day. But that didn't stop children from whispering in classrooms and on playgrounds about how to make it happen.
Elise Thom, 9, plans to wear her pajamas inside out and backward because her sister told her it helps release the magic inside her.
Adelaide Hart, 9, intends to place a metal spoon under her pillow.
"Maybe it's because when you put a tooth under your pillow you get money back," she said. "So when you put a metal spoon under your pillow, you get a snow day back."
The American Red Cross has opened shelters in Kingman, and near Strawberry and Pine.