Snow, ice and falling rocks prompted highway patrol officers to seal off all routes from the East Valley to Payson and Show Low on Saturday.
Mark Wise of Blue Ridge tried to take state Highway 87 to the East Valley for what he thought would be a quick errand. He ended up on an eight-hour detour to get back home.
He first tried heading back the way he came and found lanes closed in both directions.
“There were at least 100 cars just sitting there,” he said. “A lot of people just hung around and played in the snow.”
He then tried to take state Highway 260 and found it also was closed. He eventually discovered an alternate route off the freeways.
“After not seeing snow all year, it’s kind of shocking,” he said. “But it was beautiful.”
Arizona Department of Public Safety officials closed Highway 87 on Saturday to all traffic in both directions between the East Valley and Pine.
Portions of Highway 260 from Payson to Heber also were closed, as was U.S. 60 between Superior and Miami.
“There will be no access to Payson whatsoever,” DPS officer Tom Larson said.
The closures will be in effect this morning until officials re-evaluate road conditions.
National Weather Service meteorologist Dan LeBlanc reported 12 to 14 inches of snow in Flagstaff as of 9 p.m. Saturday. He said the heaviest snowstorm was near Star Valley and along the Mogollon Rim.
“It’s the heaviest snow we’ve seen all year,” he said.