A strong Pacific storm system that battered the Northwest the past few days should bring snow to Prescott by late tonight, forecasters say.
The storm probably will linger in northern Arizona as late as Tuesday.
The Yavapai County mountains could accumulate 4-6 inches of snow over the next few days. The deepest snow is forecast for areas along and just below the Mogollon Rim, as well as the Kaibab Plateau.
Snow levels in northern Arizona could drop to as low as 3,500 feet in elevation.
The National Weather Service plans to issue a high wind advisory for the Rim Country from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. That includes parts of the Interstate 40 corridor, said meteorologist Mark Stubblefield of the National Weather Service office in Flagstaff. Wind gusts could hit 45 mph.
By Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service was having a hard time forecasting the storm's track because it was a cut-off low that was meandering instead of following the jet stream closely, Stubblefield said. It's also moving in two waves.
Wind should pick up today and the precipitation should start as rain this evening, then turn to snow after midnight, Stubblefield said.
The Weather Service was forecasting a 70 percent chance of precipitation Saturday night, 60 percent Sunday, 40 percent Sunday night, 50 percent Monday, 40 percent Monday night, 30 percent Tuesday and 10 percent Tuesday night.
While chances are good that some of the snow will linger in higher areas such as Flagstaff through Christmas, it will probably melt in Prescott by then, Stubblefield said.
The National Weather Service office in Flagstaff has calculated that Prescott has had snow on the ground only 10 percent of the Christmases during the past 30 years. That's the same probability as New York City. Flagstaff's chances are 53 percent.
The chance for snow on the ground actually is better on New Year's Day for Flagstaff, the Weather Service calculated. The best chance for snow falling on a holiday there is April Fool's Day.
People who really want a white Christmas should try Barrow, Alaska, or Marquette, Mich.; the Weather Service chart says they have snow 100 percent of the time.
Another storm system could come through before Christmas but it probably will be much weaker than this one, he said.
Flagstaff usually has seen 2 feet of snow by now, judging by the 30-year average, Stubblefield said. But it has received only 2 inches so far.
The only storm of the season so far on Nov. 29 produced the most Arizona snow in Greer, at 7 inches. The Sunrise Ski Area got 5 inches and the Snowbowl Ski Area received 3.
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