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Flagstaff, Arizona, sets all-time snow record as major snowstorm buries southwestern US

Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist

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A storm unloaded feet of snow, brought blizzard conditions and shut down travel over the mountains of Arizona, New Mexico and southwestern Colorado.

The storm began on Wednesday when it spread disruptive snow over the northern Sierra Nevada, including Donner Summit, California, before shifting over the interior southwestern United States.

During Wednesday evening, parts of the valley around Las Vegas picked up over 4 inches of snow. Travel became slick and treacherous in the surrounding area as a result.

Schools in Las Vegas were closed on Friday due to the snow and freezing conditions.

Snow was seen falling near the mountains surrounding Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon, including in Pasadena and West Hollywood. The snow did not accumulate, but people went outside to see the unusual snow fall from the sky.

On Thursday, Interstate 5 at the Grapevine in Southern California was closed as snow created difficult travel.

Flagstaff, Arizona sets all-time snow record

Arizona's mountain city of Flagstaff was buried in feet of snow from late Wednesday through Friday, seeing nearly half of their yearly snowfall in just a few days time.

The city's airport measured 40.3 inches of snow from the storm. The average annual snowfall in Flagstaff is about 102 inches. Last winter, Flagstaff only measured 42 inches of snow.

This snowstorm came right on the heels of a winter storm that left behind 16.6 inches of snow in the city between Feb. 16 and Feb. 18.

Thursday set the all-time daily record for snowfall in Flagstaff, Arizona, with 35.9 inches of snow. The previous record was 31 inches set over a century ago on Dec. 30, 1915. This also shattered February's all-time daily snowfall record of 24 inches set on Feb. 2, 1901.

The biggest single storm on record in Flagstaff brought 64 inches of snow and concluded on Jan. 17, 1985.

More recently, a storm that concluded on Jan. 23, 2010, brought 36.4 inches of snow. During the period from Dec. 18-23, 2010, 56.2 inches of snow fell with 56.4 inches during the entire month of December. The snowiest month on record was January 1895, when 126 inches of snow fell on Flagstaff. So far, about 68 inches of snow has fallen during February 2019.

How rare is snow in the Desert Southwest?

The McCarran International Airport near Las Vegas picked up 0.5 of an inch of snow with this storm. The last time there was enough snow to measure at this location was on Dec. 17, 2008, when 3.6 inches of snow fell.

snow crash

A snowy car crash in San Bernardino County, California, on Thursday. (Photo/San Bernardino County Fire)

On Friday, Tucson, Arizona, measured 1.9 inches of snow, the most that had fallen in the desert city since Feb. 20, 2013.

In the wake of the storm, actual temperatures will dip into the single digits and even below zero over the mountains on Saturday night.

Sw Saturday

Meanwhile, drenching rain caused flooding in lower elevations, including areas around Phoenix.

This same storm is expected to evolve into a blizzard from the central Plains to the Upper Midwest this weekend, spur a severe weather outbreak with tornadoes over the lower Mississippi Valley and create high winds and power outages from the southern Plains to the Great Lakes and Northeast.