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Historic Flagstaff snowfall could help lessen drought, expert says

A car drives down Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona, on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. 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. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

PHOENIX — The snow swallowing Flagstaff did so with a force that impressed weather experts, even though they had predicted it would.

The hard, relentless 40.8-inch snowfall set a single-day record for the city, besting a 104-year-old mark.

“This is an historic event,” Arizona State University climatologist Randy Cerveny told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday.

“We’re looking at stats here that maybe old-timers from 30, 40, 50 years ago might remember, but in recent years we haven’t seen anything quite like this,” Cerveny said.

By early Friday, 39 inches were on the ground.

“We saw this coming a long way out,” meteorologist Brian Klimowski of the National Weather Service said from the Flagstaff bureau.

Snow began falling Wednesday but really piled it on the city the next day.

Cerveny said the weather system known as El Nino played a big part in the snowstorm and the steady rain that hit the Valley.

“This just happens to be the mother of all those storms that we’ve had so far,” he said.

The Valley has received more than 8 inches of rain since October.

“Normally we would only have about 3 1/2 [inches]. We are doing very well this El Nino winter.”

Cerveny said the snow was what was needed to break up a drought.

Summer rains tend to quickly run off.

“The nice thing about snow is it sits there, slowly melts and it fills the reservoirs.

“This is the exact best scenario we could have for making a very serious dent in our drought,” he said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross contributed to this report.

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