- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2016

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - A winter storm is expected to drop heavy snow across much of northern Arizona, and authorities said drivers could face slow-moving traffic and hazardous conditions.

With the cold front expected to move into the state Saturday, Arizona’s weather was in a comparative lull Friday between bursts of wetness that brought minor flooding in some areas Thursday.

A winter storm watch was issued for Flagstaff, Grand Canyon Village and nearby parts of northern Arizona. It said snowfall would begin Saturday morning and become heavy midday, with total accumulations of 8 to 12 inches between 6,000 and 8,000 feet and 10 to 20 inches above 8,000 feet.

National Weather Service forecasters said strong winds could create drifting snow, making for hazardous travel conditions.

The Phoenix and Tucson areas likely will get rain and wind Saturday afternoon, and snow may fall late Saturday on mountains overlooking Tucson, the weather service said.

The Arizona Department of Transportation said traffic likely will be going slow in popular snow-play areas along U.S. 180 northwest of Flagstaff and elsewhere over Christmas and New Year’s weekends.

“At day’s end, when people start heading home on U.S. 180, it can take 90 minutes or longer to get back to Flagstaff,” ADOT said in a statement.

The agency advised motorists to dress for the cold, keep gas tanks half to three-quarters full and take a fully charged cellphone, water and snacks.

Also, drivers shouldn’t stop on highway shoulders to play in the snow because that could distract other drivers and emergency crews may need to use shoulders.

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