FLAGSTAFF — Fresh snow blanketed the Flagstaff area early Thursday, adding to the 3 feet of snow already on the ground, and forecasters say another 2 feet of snow is on the way.
Mounds of snow lined driveways as residents woke early to shovel it and navigate snowpacked and icy roads on their way to work. Others hunkered down during the third storm this week to hit northern Arizona, where snowfall is approaching record depths.
Interstate 17 from Camp Verde to Flagstaff and State Route 89A from Flagstaff to Sedona were closed, leaving motorists without a direct route between Phoenix and Flagstaff. State Route 87 from Winslow south to Pine-Strawberry also was shut down, and Department of Transportation officials said more roads could be closed if the snow doesn't let up. Snow chains were required for vehicles traveling between Heber and Payson.
Also, Northern Arizona University decided to close its Flagstaff campus, citing worsening weather conditions. All classes were canceled and offices closed.
In Phoenix, rain fell steadily since early Thursday morning, leaving pools of standing water in the streets and intersections flooded. Six to 7 inches of rain was forecast for northern Maricopa and Gila counties. The National Weather Service said the storm will bring about 4 inches of rain to Phoenix — more than half of the rain Phoenix typically sees in a year.
Lt. Steve Harrison of the state Department of Public Safety said the rain had forced the closure of some city streets in Phoenix and flooded washes in the area.
Officials urged residents to avoid crossing flooded areas and reduce speeds on snowpacked and icy roads, and postpone travel all together if possible.
"If you don't have to travel, don't," Harrison said. "That's the biggest thing we're trying to tell people, especially in northern Arizona."
DPS sent additional officers to Arizona's northern and central mountains to respond to the snow. The office said the snow was causing driving problems and there were reports of drivers sliding off roadways.
Search and rescue crews were looking late Wednesday for an overdue snowboarder on the south side of the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort near Flagstaff. Coconino County sheriff's spokesman Gerry Blair said the 19-year-old man is not an experienced hiker or snowboarder.
In southern Arizona, the weather service posted blizzard and high wind warnings. Forecasters said up to 2 inches of rain could fall in Tucson, with the White Mountains receiving an inch of rain before the snow was to begin late there late Thursday.
Areas above 7,000 feet in Cochise, Pima and Santa Cruz can expect 10-18 inches of snow from the storm, forecasters said, while the same elevations in Graham and Greenlee counties could get more than 2 feet of snow.
On the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona, the weather will range from less than half an inch of rain in Chinle to up to 2 feet of snow in the Window Rock area.
The National Weather Service said the latest storm should move out of the state by Saturday, and drier weather will return.