FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - State officials say long stretches of two interstate highways in northern Arizona's high country will likely be closed between late Thursday and early Friday because of expected heavy snowfall from an incoming storm.
The Arizona Department of Transportation says Interstate 17 for 40 miles south of Flagstaff and Interstate 40 for 185 miles between Winslow on the east and U.S. 93 on the west likely will be closed until the snowfall lets up and the routes can be plowed.
According to the agency, "ADOT works closely with the Arizona Department of Public Safety to ensure safety during winter weather. With the National Weather Service advising that “travel may be very difficult to impossible” at the height of the storm, which the latest forecast says will be between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, the agencies have determined that the safest course of action is closing highways with blizzard conditions until snow lets up and ADOT’s plows can clear roadways."
The department also said Wednesday that additional highway closures also may be necessary.
The National Weather Service forecasts that Flagstaff will receive up to 2 feet of snow from the storm in areas above 6,000 feet in elevation and hazardous driving conditions down to 4,500 feet, including much of Yavapai County, the Mogollon Rim and the Grand Canyon.
A look at the expected snow totals along the Interstate 17 in northern Arizona for Nov. 28 and 29, 2019. (NWS Flagstaff)
As for the City of Flagstaff, snow is nothing new, and crews will be equipped with 20 ten-wheel snowplows, as well as nine road graders.
"This one's a more significant storm. This is a significant storm that’s gonna impact our Thanksgiving Day holiday. We anticipate snow to really begin in earnest tomorrow afternoon, Thanksgiving Day, and working its way through Friday into Saturday hours," said Scott Overton, Streets Section Director for the City of Flagstaff Public Works.
Overton said there are 35 workers on deck, and up to 16 will work 12-hour shifts. They will focus on main street and arterial roads.
Overton said snowfall last week has given crews a warm-up for the event.
"A lot of these operators are veteran operators who have been with us for a long time," said Overton. "We have a couple of new guys on the routes, but they’ve been training. They've been going through simulations and driving the routes and being most prepared as possible."
Winter driving tips: http://www.azdot.gov/KnowSnow
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.