- Associated Press - Thursday, January 7, 2016

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - The worst in a series of El Nino storms that hit Arizona this week is over after dumping more than 2 feet of snow in northern Arizona cities and drenching the desert terrain with rain.

Northern Arizona roadways were snow-packed and icy, and drivers had problems seeing far ahead. Despite that, authorities reported relatively few slide-offs and collisions attributed to people driving too fast. No one was seriously hurt.

To the south, 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. Searchers had to navigate rugged terrain to find them.

The bad weather is expected to break Friday afternoon before another smaller storm moves in with a much smaller chance of snow, the National Weather Service said. Temperatures will remain below freezing until early next week.

Flagstaff residents struggled to keep sidewalks and driveways clear Thursday, and cars in town were slipping and sliding all over the roads. Authorities discouraged travel to northern Arizona.

“Our concern tonight is it will freeze up, snow may continue to fall, and that’s going to bring back some challenging driving conditions,” Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said Thursday.

More than 2 feet of snow fell this week in Flagstaff, Williams and the community of Forest Lakes. The forecast for late Thursday and Friday called for more snow, anywhere from an inch in Fredonia, to six inches in Flagstaff and a foot in Alpine in eastern Arizona.

Individual storms in the series didn’t break any records in Flagstaff. The all-time high for daily snowfall came in 1915 with 31 inches.

The series total is likely to break into the top 20 multiday 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.

Grade-school students in Flagstaff and Williams celebrated having a second day off Thursday, thanks to the storms. Children in Prescott started classes late.

At the Grand Canyon, officials temporarily halted shuttle bus service because of bad roads and whiteout conditions. Access to some lookouts also was cut off because of the roads.

Graves said a portion of SR 260 near Heber-Overgaard was shut down for two hours Thursday so that plows could clear the snow.

Residents in lower elevations were dealing with heavy rain. A round that hit central Phoenix on Thursday brought thunder, lightning and hail, exciting people who don’t normally see such activity. At least a half-inch of rain fell in the morning hours.

Unbridged crossings of Tucson-area desert washes were closed as the city experienced hours of rainfall. The Tucson Fire Department rescued two people and a dog trapped in car that became stuck on a street after water overflowed from a neighborhood wash. Flooding also was reported near Apache Junction.


Associated Press writer Paul Davenport contributed to this report. Tang and Davenport reported from Phoenix.

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