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Arizona residents digging out from latest winter storm

January 27, 2021 GMT
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Truman Jones clears a driveway in Bellemont, Ariz., Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. Residents were digging out from a major winter storm that dumped heavy snow in the region. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)
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Truman Jones clears a driveway in Bellemont, Ariz., Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. Residents were digging out from a major winter storm that dumped heavy snow in the region. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Brian Thomas stepped out of his house west of Flagstaff before sunrise Tuesday and looked at the massive amount of snow that fell overnight and hadn’t let up.

“Oh, Lord, here we go again,” he said.

The grocery store director managed to clear enough of the driveway for his wife to venture out. But his two-wheel drive pickup slid and hit a snow berm, and Thomas wasn’t going anywhere.

“This ain’t the worst storm I’ve seen, but it’s up there,” he said.

Residents around northern Arizona were digging themselves out from the latest in a series of winter storms. The one that hit the state Sunday and moved out Tuesday afternoon dumped more than 2 feet (half a meter) of snow in parts of Flagstaff, Prescott, Show Low and Payson, according to the National Weather Service.

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Meanwhile, most of Nevada was bracing for another series of powerful winter storms that could bring several feet of snow to the mountains above Lake Tahoe by Thursday.

The National Weather Service issued a rare blizzard warning Tuesday for Lake Tahoe and much of the Sierra Nevada as well as an avalanche warning for much of the eastern Sierra’s backcountry, where heavy snow combined with wind could create high avalanche danger early Wednesday through Friday morning.

Meteorologists said the storm could bring 6 feet (2 meters) of snow to upper elevations and winds gusting in excess of 100 mph (160 kph) over ridgetops. The blizzard warning is in effect from 10 p.m. Tuesday through 4 a.m. Friday for the Tahoe area as far south as Mammoth Lakes, California.

On Tuesday, downtown Las Vegas got a trace of snow, with outlying areas seeing up to 3 inches (8 centimeters).

In New Mexico, light snow was widespread and didn’t accumulate much. Forecasters said wind made low temperatures feel even colder Tuesday.

In Arizona, a stretch of Interstate 17 between the turnoff to Sedona and Flagstaff was closed until Tuesday afternoon. Earlier in the day, a semi-truck crashed on westbound Interstate 40 between Kingman and Flagstaff, spilling motor oil on the roadway and backing up traffic for several miles, Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said.

No one was seriously injured in the multiple slide-offs and crashes, he said.

Drivers should expect delays from closures and wrecks if they choose to drive on the snow-packed and icy roads, the Arizona Department of Transportation said.

They urged people to stay home, even before the storms started. The National Weather Service hasn’t released the total amount of precipitation yet from the multiday event.

The storms weren’t expected to break any records, meteorologist Mark Stubblefield said. But they put Flagstaff close to its average snowfall for the year, as did the rain in the Phoenix area.

Low temperatures overnight into Wednesday are going to be well below freezing in many northern Arizona communities. Window Rock on the Navajo Nation is forecast to be zero.

Outside homes in the high country, driveways, walkways and vehicles were buried in the snow. Residents spent hours clearing it, often with help from neighbors or a snow blower.

“It’s cool, but it gets tiring after shoveling for a while,” said Michael Robles, 12, who had the day off from in-person classes.