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Rare snowstorm surprises Arizona residents

More than a foot of snow fell on parts of northern Arizona, and several more inches were possible Monday, part of a storm across the Plains that left 11 dead over the weekend.
Tucson, Ariz., saw enough snow on Sunday for kids like Steven and Carrie Teichert to build a Southwest snowman.
Tucson, Ariz., saw enough snow on Sunday for kids like Steven and Carrie Teichert to build a Southwest snowman.John Miller / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

More than a foot of snow fell on parts of northern Arizona, and several more inches were possible Monday, while children as far south as Tucson got a rare chance to play in the snow as one of the strongest storms of the winter moved through the state.

Sunday’s storm came amid a wave of winter storms that have brought snow, ice and strong winds to the Plains region, but also to the Southwest, including Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.

The harsh, frigid conditions were blamed for 11 traffic fatalities in the Plains over the weekend.

Southern New Mexico picked up 9 inches on snow on Sunday and Monday, closing 66 miles of the Interstate 25, the state’s major north-south highway. “The semi-trucks are having a hard time,” State Police Lt. Rick Anglada said, noting that three tractor-trailers had jackknifed on I-25 and 10 to 15 rigs had pulled off the roadway.

Some public schools in the southern and western parts of the state closed Monday.

Although the heaviest snowfall in Arizona on Sunday was in the north, snow also fell in downtown Phoenix and Tucson, which received up to 1½ inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Danita D’Water said there were huge snowflakes in her neighborhood in far northeast Phoenix.

“The children are running up and down the street, riding their scooters in the snow,” she said. “The kids are pretty excited but the adults were out taking pictures.”

More than a foot fell in Forest Lakes, Pinetop and at the Sunrise Ski Resort, among other places in northern Arizona. Between one and three inches fell in Flagstaff, said Robert Bohlin, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

A winter storm warning remained in effect until noon Monday for parts of northern and northeastern Arizona, with the National Weather Service forecasting up to an additional three inches of snow.

Dense fog and icy roads created hazardous driving conditions Monday morning in the Tucson area.

Colorado traffic trouble
In Colorado, 3 to 6 inches of snow fell across much of the Front Range, with more in the in the eastern plains and the mountains. Strong winds created whiteout conditions on the state’s eastern plains.

Dozens of schools opened late or closed Monday in eastern Colorado. And searchers were preparing to look for a snowshoer reported missing southwest of Denver after he failed to return from a solo outing Saturday.

On Sunday, officials closed a long stretch of Interstate 70, from near Denver International Airport almost to the Kansas state line because of high winds, blowing snow, poor visibility and ice. The road had reopened by Monday morning.

Snow and icy roads caused accidents that shut down southbound Interstate 25 near Fort Collins for two hours Sunday morning. State Patrol Master Trooper Ron Watkins said no injuries were reported.

In Missouri, more than 45,000 people remained in the dark from the same storm.

Winter weather has also hit hard on the East Coast, bringing snow, sleet and freezing rain to Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland and making roads treacherous. An accident on Interstate 81 in Virginia killed one person and injured five, authorities said.

Oklahoma power issues
In Oklahoma, where an ice storm disrupted power to as many as 125,000 homes and businesses more than a week ago, about 20,000 electrical customers remained without power early Monday — mostly in the eastern part of the state.

Hundreds of utility linemen worked through the night in hopes of fully restoring power by Monday or Tuesday, authorities said.

Warmer temperatures in the state led to melting ice and snow that have turned roads into slushy rivers, yards into quagmires and streams into rushing torrents.

A pickup truck carrying radioactive materials used in pipeline scanning equipment was swept from a bridge and disappeared in a swollen creek in Oklahoma’s Pittsburg County, said Undersheriff Richard Sexton.

The truck’s two occupants escaped unharmed, but efforts to locate the truck and its radioactive cargo were suspended after dark. He said officials hope the creek’s level will fall enough on Monday to reveal the truck’s whereabouts. A container with the material is bolted to the truck.

“The radioactive materials are still in the truck, and that’s what we’re worried about,” Sexton said.