Heaviest El Niño storm clears Arizona, brings snow, rain and hail to Valley

Jan 7, 2016, 6:49 PM | Updated: Jan 8, 2016, 8:09 am
(KTAR Photo/Adrian Genesi)...
(KTAR Photo/Adrian Genesi)
(KTAR Photo/Adrian Genesi)

PHOENIX — The heaviest in the latest series of El Niño storms, bringing snow to the high country and rain and hail to the Phoenix area, has officially cleared Arizona.

Thursday’s storm dumped more than 2 feet of snow in several northern Arizona cities and brought approximately half an inch of rain to the Valley, according to the National Weather Service.

The rain totals were the second-highest in Arizona history for one day total precipitation, right behind .67 inches back on Jan. 7, 1955.

It was clear on Thursday that weather experts were serious when they said it would rain and snow in Arizona most of the week. By early afternoon, a flood advisory was posted for areas northwest of Phoenix, including Cave Creek and New River.

That advisory was quickly followed by hail in the downtown Phoenix area. The Flood Control District of Maricopa issued an alert for flash flood potential.

Two people riding an all-terrain vehicle got stuck in the snow and spent the night on the Four Peaks Mountain, about 60 miles east of Phoenix, before being rescued Thursday, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for much of northern Arizona through midday Friday — as much an inch of snow was falling per hour.

Public schools in Flagstaff were closed for a second straight day because of heavy snowfall.

El Nino has helped dump over 20 inches of snow on Flagstaff as of Thursday morning after 10 inches fell since midnight Wednesday.

Flagstaff was preparing for another 9 to 13 inches by the middle of Friday.

(Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau Webcam)

(Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau Webcam)

Alpine and Prescott could get about a foot of snow, while Payson could get 6-8 inches.

The current El Nino system, a natural warming of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean that interacts with the atmosphere and changes weather worldwide, has tied a system in 1997-1998 as the strongest on record.

The series total is likely to break into the top 20 multi-day totals if it surpasses 29.3 inches, the weather bureau said. The state is a fraction of an inch away from that with this series of storms.

KTAR’s Jim Cross and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Heaviest El Niño storm clears Arizona, brings snow, rain and hail to Valley