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Powerful snowstorm shuts down highways across northern Arizona

Snow creates tough driving conditions on Interstate 40 in Bellemont, Ariz. Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. The latest in a series of storms dropped heavy snow in the region. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

PHOENIX – A powerful snowstorm shut down multiple highways across northern Arizona on Monday, and when they’ll reopen is anyone’s guess.

Long stretches of major routes Interstate 17, Interstate 40 and State Route 89A were closed as well as several other roads that take drivers in and around the high country.

By early Tuesday afternoon, I-17 southbound reopened between Flagstaff and State Route 179, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

“This is one of those storms that has touched every part of our state,” Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Sgt. Kameron Lee told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Tuesday.

The National Weather Service bureau in Flagstaff reported 14 inches of snow fell Monday through midnight and more was falling before dawn Tuesday.

ADOT cautioned anyone heading out in the extreme conditions to hold off on those plans.

“Those who decide to travel in the storm should be prepared for an extended time on the road and use chains or four-wheel drive,” the agency said in a press release.

As of 11 p.m., here are the closures in effect, according to ADOT:

• U.S. 191 from mileposts 225 to 254 (just south of Alpine)

• SR 87 between the Payson and Winslow

• SR 260 between Star Valley and Heber, and from east of Camp Verde to SR 87

• SR 89A between Sedona and I-17

• SR 89 from north of Peeples Valley to just south of Prescott

• SR 288 westbound between SR 188 and Young

Flagstaff, Payson and Pinetop-Lakeside could get close to 3 feet of snow or more before the storm moves out, forecasters said.

“We appreciate the moisture but we don’t appreciate people going out driving when we’ve asked people to avoid driving, if they can.” Lee said. “Just kind of ignoring that and going on their merry way and causing incidents.”

Lee said based on previous experience, troopers were ready for traffic from people wanting to see the snow.

“One of the things we did last week was remind drivers not to stop and play in the snow right next to the highway. What did we have as soon as the snow fell? Drivers stopping, playing in the snow right next to the roadway.”

Troopers also helped drivers stuck in the snow.

“We’re grateful there hasn’t been any major incident,” Lee said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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