Winter storm dumps heavy snow across Northern Arizona

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.

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.

>>LIST: School closures, delays for northern Arizona during winter 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.

"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.

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.