FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A strong winter storm that hit much of Arizona, bringing heavy snow and rain and the temporary closure of a large section of Interstate 40 on Saturday, is expected to weaken overnight, forecasters said.
The storm and one that hit the state a day earlier, dropped as much as 2 feet of snow in the mountains north of Flagstaff, at least a foot in Flagstaff itself and along the Mogollon Rim and about 6 inches in Prescott, according to the National Weather Service. Scattered power outages were reported.
Eastbound I-40 between Ash Fork and the Parks exit about 15 miles west of Flagstaff reopened about 3 p.m. Saturday after a several-hour shut down, and westbound lanes about an hour later. The approximately 50-mile section of I-40 saw heavy snow, limited visibility and multiple vehicle spinouts, Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Garin Groff said.
ADOT was recommending tire chains and four-wheel drive vehicles on Interstate 17 between the Sedona turnoff and Flagstaff, but no official limits were in place, Groff said. That section of highway also saw many spinouts and crashes since early Saturday.
State Route 64 from SR89A to the Grand Canyon south entrance and the road to Mount Lemmon outside Tucson also are closed.
The storm that moved in Saturday morning was tapering off across the central parts of the state at midafternoon Saturday and would mostly leave the state before Sunday, weather service meteorologist Ben Peterson said. Most of the heavy snowfall in Flagstaff had ended by 3 p.m. Communities along the Mogollon Rim and the White Mountains of eastern Arizona could see snow though midnight.
“Essentially, the heavy and persistent snow is over right now, although it’s kind of hairy out there,” he said.
Heavy rain was persisting in Phoenix as evening approached, but should also taper off within a few hours, Peterson said.
The forecast for central Arizona called for lingering rain through early Sunday.
A minor weather system is expected to move through the northern part of the state Sunday, but it will only drop about an inch of snow in the northern parts of the state before moving out and leaving the state dry until at least Tuesday.
That’s when another winter system is expected to move into Arizona, bringing more rain to Phoenix and Tucson and snow in the higher elevations of the state.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.