Wacky weather: Arizona opens 2016 with heavy rain, snow from El Nino

Jan 8, 2016, 4:00 PM | Updated: 4:06 pm

A pedestrian makes their way through historic downtown Flagstaff, Ariz., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. A ...

A pedestrian makes their way through historic downtown Flagstaff, Ariz., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. A series of El Nino-related storms dumped heavy snow on the region. (AP Photo/Josh Biggs)

(AP Photo/Josh Biggs)

PHOENIX — We’re just eight days into the new year, but El Nino has already been hard at work in Arizona.

There have been just two days — Jan. 1 and 2 — when Arizona was precipitation-free. The weather has been so dark and dreary that one climatologist said Phoenix was going to look like the Pacific Northwest for the next few months.

“This year, we’re going to become Seattle,” Randy Cerveny, a climatologist with Arizona State University, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes. “The storms that normally go up there will come down here.”

The rain started Monday in Phoenix, when we were all greeted by showers as we returned from the New Year holiday weekend. Northern Arizona began seeing some snowfall, but it was relatively light.

Forecasters warned it was only the beginning, and oh boy were they right.

By Wednesday, the entire northern part of the state was covered in a big blanket of white.

Flagstaff received nearly two feet of snow, leading to the cancellation of school and dangerous driving conditions. Several major roadways were closed and others, such as State Route 89A, were incredibly slow moving as drivers tried to avoid hitting one another.

Heavy rains hit the Phoenix area, leading to headlines we typically only see in summer: Storm knocks out power to Valley neighborhoods.

But that all paled in comparison to Thursday, when the high country received more than two feet of snow — falling as fast as one foot per hour — in major cities and about a half-inch of rain fell in the Valley.

The rain totals were the second-highest in Arizona history for one day total precipitation, right behind .67 inches back on Jan. 7, 1955. By early afternoon, a flood advisory was posted for areas northwest of Phoenix, including Cave Creek and New River.

While Arizona is typically a one-off when it comes to dealing with extreme weather, Cerveny said El Nino is expected to continue until March or April.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

woman cutting a sandwich in the back of house...

Eligible Mesa small business owners can register for low-cost college courses

A new program in Mesa is expanding ways that small business owners can earn college credits. 

6 hours ago

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)...

Associated Press

Judge denies Phoenix request to extend clean up time at The Zone

A judge on Tuesday denied the city of Phoenix’s legal request seeking extra time to clean up the city’s largest homeless encampment.

10 hours ago

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is surrounded by staff, security and journalists as he walks to the Ho...

Brandon Gray

Kevin McCarthy out as speaker of the House: How Arizona representatives voted

In a 216-210 vote, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted off his post, making him the first in history to be removed from the role.

11 hours ago

(ADOT Photo)...

ADOT uses updated technology to improve operation of freeway ramp meters

Updated technology has allowed the Arizona Department of Transportation to optimize the operation of its freeway ramp meters.

11 hours ago

Mug shots of Frank Avila, left, and Albert Valenzuela. The men were arrested after a Phoenix bus ro...

1 man dead, 2 arrested after Phoenix bus robbery leads to hit-and-run collision

A man faces possible murder charges after a victim he allegedly tried to rob on a Phoenix bus was hit and killed by a vehicle while fleeing.

12 hours ago


KTAR Video

Video: What would it mean if the city of Phoenix entered into a “consent decree?”

Maricopa County Sherriff Paul Penzone announced Monday that he would not run for re-election and after bringing in a police chief following a national search, Mike Broomhead ponders what message the city of Phoenix would send by entering into a consent decree. Video: Jeremy Schnell and Felisa Cárdenas/KTAR News

16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.



When most diets fail, re:vitalize makes a difference that shows

Staying healthy and losing weight are things many people in Arizona are conscious of, especially during the summer.



At Ability360, every day is Independence Day

With 100 different programs and services, more than 1,500 non-medically based home care staff, a world-renowned Sports & Fitness Center and over 15,000 people with disabilities served annually, across all ages and demographics, Ability360 is a nationwide leader in the disability community.

Wacky weather: Arizona opens 2016 with heavy rain, snow from El Nino