Winter weather across Arizona brings rain, snow and dangerous driving conditions

A storm is expected to produce hazardous driving conditions across much of Arizona beginning late Thursday and continuing into Saturday, forecasters said on Dec. 30.

Across the Valley and the high country, residents have seen rain and snow since the beginning of the week.

Phoenix, surrounding cities

Thursday's high was 63°F, which is 3 degrees below normal.

Tuesday was chilly in the Valley as Sky Harbor saw a high of 59 degrees. Wednesday saw a high of 61 degrees, which was 4 degrees below average for this time of year.

Phoenix saw scattered showers by nighttime and the National Weather Service (NWS) said rainfall totals will be light, but to still use caution when driving.

Northern Arizona

Snow is expected in higher elevations, including at Flagstaff in northern Arizona and in eastern Arizona’s White and Chuska mountains, while moderate to locally heavy rainfall s expected in lower elevations, the National Weather Service said Thursday.

Total snow accumulations in northern Arizona are expected to range from 2 inches (5 centimeters) to 8 inches (20 centimeters) while those in the White Mountain are expected to range from 2 inches (5 centimeters) to 11 inches (28 centimeters).

On Wednesday, Flagstaff Pulliam Airport had received 10.1 inches.

Road closures are possible and the most hazardous driving conditions are expected Friday afternoon and evening, the weather service said. "Travel could be very difficult."

Very cold temperatures are forecast for Saturday and Sunday mornings, and Sunday "could be the coldest temperatures of the season thus far," the weather service said.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.

Families frolic in Flagstaff snow

Kids, parents and pets are making the most of freshly fallen snow in Flagstaff.

"I like the sledding and making snowmen," said Ella, 11.

Many families from the Valley are used to warmer temperatures, sunshine, and the occasional rainstorm. They say they couldn't wait to escape all of that and experience some real winter fun.

"This is my first time [sledding] ever," said Mesa resident Jacee Lee. "It's awesome!"

Especially during the holiday season, there's nothing like a bit of snow to make one's spirits bright.

"It's wonderful," said visitor Jennifer Argetsinger. "My daughter has never sled before, so we wanted to bring her out here and sled."

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Winter weather safety tips –

Road Conditions

  • Call 511 anywhere in Arizona or 1-888-411-ROAD (7623)

Leave prepared before heading north

After recent snowfall in the high country, the Arizona Department of Transportation is reminding drivers who are heading north to never park along highways to play in the snow. 

Use the highway shoulders for emergencies only. Parking on them to play in the snow is hazardous in the following ways:

  • Other drivers may be distracted by your vehicle.
  • Other drivers may pull over as well to play in the snow, compounding the problem.
  • Your vehicle may interfere with first responders who need to use the shoulder.
  • Plows can throw snow and ice far off highways.
  • It’s much safer to re-enter highways from on-ramps and other designated entrances

"Also, it’s not uncommon for lots of desert dwellers to take the opportunity to head north to play in the snow. So, remember to pack your patience and expect to spend extended time in your vehicle getting to and from snow play areas."

ADOT's suggestions for items to take along:

  • Warm clothing and blankets
  • A fully charged mobile phone and charger
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Drinking water
  • Healthy snacks
  • First-aid kit and necessary medications
  • Ice scraper
  • Small bag of sand or kitty litter for wheel traction
  • Small folding shovel for snow removal
  • Travel tool kit and battery cables
  • Safety flares
  • Plastic bags or containers for sanitation
  • Road map(s)


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