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Flagstaff, Arizona, sets all-time snow record as major snowstorm buries southwestern US

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
February 24, 2019, 3:21:16 AM EST

A storm unloaded feet of snow, brought blizzard conditions and shut down travel over the mountains of Arizona, New Mexico and southwestern Colorado.

The storm began on Wednesday when it spread disruptive snow over the northern Sierra Nevada, including Donner Summit, California, before shifting over the interior southwestern United States.

During Wednesday evening, parts of the valley around Las Vegas picked up over 4 inches of snow. Travel became slick and treacherous in the surrounding area as a result.

(Twitter photo/@lisas_travels)

The snow coming down in Flagstaff, Arizona, has piled so high that it nearly reaches a stop sign on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019.

A state trooper truck stuck in deep snow. (Photo/Director of Arizona Department of Public Safety)

A frozen tumbleweed spotted in Sierra Vista, Arizona. (Photo/Heather Clevenger)

(AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

Morgan Baggs shovels the driveway at his home in Flagstaff, Arizona, on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019.

(AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

A pedestrian waits for a crossing signal in Flagstaff, Arizona, on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. Schools across northern Arizona canceled classes and some government offices closed amid a winter storm that dumped heavy snow in the region.

(AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

A car drives down Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona, on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019.

A downed tree blocking a snow-covered road on SR-84A near Slide Rock State Park, Arizona. (Photo/Arizona Deptartment of Public Safety)

(AP Photo/John Locher)

Snow accumulates on a median along the Las Vegas Strip at the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019.

(AP Photo/John Locher)

A man takes a picture of a small snowman at the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign along the Las Vegas Strip, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(AP Photo/John Locher)

Snow falls on the Luxor hotel and casino Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, in Las Vegas.

(AP Photo/John Locher)

A dusting of snow covers an area along the Las Vegas Strip, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, in Las Vegas.


A snow-covered yard in Las Vegas on Thursday morning.

(Photo/Charlie Babley Photography)

A snowy tree in Las Vegas on Thursday morning.

(Photo/NASCAR Driver Noah Gragson)

Las Vegas covered in snow on Thursday morning.

Drivers that are speeding are sliding off of Interstate 40 amid snowy and icy conditions. (Photo/Arizona Department of Public Safety)

(AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

Frank Van Buren, the manager of a travel center, gives direction to semi-truck drivers who are pulling off Interstate 40 in Bellemont, Arizona, on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019.

(Photo/Charlie Babley Photography)

A leaf from a plam tree covered in snow in Las Vegas.

(Photo/Angela DiLoreto)

A palm tree covered in snow in Las Vegas on Thursday morning.

Traffic at a standstill on Interstate 10 eastbound. (Photo/Arizona Deptartment of Public Safety)

Schools in Las Vegas were closed on Friday due to the snow and freezing conditions.

Snow was seen falling near the mountains surrounding Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon, including in Pasadena and West Hollywood. The snow did not accumulate, but people went outside to see the unusual snow fall from the sky.

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On Thursday, Interstate 5 at the Grapevine in Southern California was closed as snow created difficult travel.

Flagstaff, Arizona sets all-time snow record

Arizona's mountain city of Flagstaff was buried in feet of snow from late Wednesday through Friday, seeing nearly half of their yearly snowfall in just a few days time.

The city's airport measured 40.3 inches of snow from the storm. The average annual snowfall in Flagstaff is about 102 inches. Last winter, Flagstaff only measured 42 inches of snow.

This snowstorm came right on the heels of a winter storm that left behind 16.6 inches of snow in the city between Feb. 16 and Feb. 18.

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Thursday set the all-time daily record for snowfall in Flagstaff, Arizona, with 35.9 inches of snow. The previous record was 31 inches set over a century ago on Dec. 30, 1915. This also shattered February's all-time daily snowfall record of 24 inches set on Feb. 2, 1901.

The biggest single storm on record in Flagstaff brought 64 inches of snow and concluded on Jan. 17, 1985.

More recently, a storm that concluded on Jan. 23, 2010, brought 36.4 inches of snow. During the period from Dec. 18-23, 2010, 56.2 inches of snow fell with 56.4 inches during the entire month of December. The snowiest month on record was January 1895, when 126 inches of snow fell on Flagstaff. So far, about 68 inches of snow has fallen during February 2019.

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How rare is snow in the Desert Southwest?

The McCarran International Airport near Las Vegas picked up 0.5 of an inch of snow with this storm. The last time there was enough snow to measure at this location was on Dec. 17, 2008, when 3.6 inches of snow fell.

snow crash

A snowy car crash in San Bernardino County, California, on Thursday. (Photo/San Bernardino County Fire)

On Friday, Tucson, Arizona, measured 1.9 inches of snow, the most that had fallen in the desert city since Feb. 20, 2013.

Meanwhile, drenching rain caused flooding in lower elevations, including areas around Phoenix.

In the wake of the storm, actual temperatures will dip into the single digits and even below zero over the mountains on Saturday night.

SW Sunday Feb 23

This same storm is expected to evolve into a blizzard from the central Plains to the Upper Midwest this weekend, spur a severe weather outbreak with tornadoes over the lower Mississippi Valley and create high winds and power outages from the southern Plains to the Great Lakes and Northeast.

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