Huge storm bears down on St. Paddy's Day
Prescott-area residents could see green turning to white by the end of St. Patrick's Day today. The National Weather Service is forecasting a major winter storm to hit northern Arizona this weekend, with the possibility of nearly a foot of snow in Prescott by Monday.
"This is definitely going be the strongest storm system we've seen so far this season," said Megan Schwitzer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff.
Spring officially arrives at 10:14 p.m. Monday in Arizona.
But to punctuate the last days of winter, a winter storm warning is in effect from 11 p.m. today through 5 p.m. Monday for parts of northern Arizona including all of Yavapai County.
Heavy snow should start at the 7,000-foot level in Yavapai County late Saturday evening, then drop below 4,000 feet by mid-day Sunday, the Weather Service warns. Periods of moderate to heavy snow will continue through Monday, the warning adds.
Total snow depth could hit 2-5 inches at elevations of 4,500-5,000 feet, 6-12 inches at 5,000-7,000 feet and 1-2 feet at elevations above 7,000 feet, the Weather Service said.
Southwest winds of 20-30 mph with stronger gusts will create visibility problems on roads.
"Driving will be extremely dangerous during this storm," the Weather Service warning stated. The agency especially warned against traveling at elevations above 6,000 feet from late Saturday night through Sunday.
After a high of 70 degrees in Prescott Friday and 61 degrees today, the high for Sunday is supposed to hit only 35 degrees.
"It's unusually warm ahead of this storm," Schwitzer said. "It's so nice out, people are thinking, 'Is this really going to happen?'"
For updated weather forecasts go online to weather.gov/Flagstaff. For updated road conditions call 888-411-7623 or go online to az511.com.
In front of the Pacific storm system, a wind advisory is in effect from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. today for all of Yavapai County. Residents can expect 20-35 mph winds with gusts hitting 45-55 mph.
The forecast for Prescott (as of Friday evening) is calling for a 20 percent chance of rain after 11 a.m. today, followed by a 100-percent chance of rain tonight.
The Weather Service anticipates the rain will turn to snow as Saturday turns to Sunday.
The Sunday forecast calls for a 100-percent chance of heavy snow with possible accumulations of 3-5 inches during the day in Prescott.
Then on Sunday night, the Weather Service is calling for a 70 percent chance of heavy snow with another 3-5 inches of snow.
Monday has a 60 percent chance of snow with another inch possibly falling.
Temperatures are supposed to rise back up to 52 by Tuesday.
The storm will provide much-needed precipitation in the region.
Prescott hasn't received any precipitation so far this month. The average total for March is 1.7 inches. January saw 13 percent of the average precipitation here, followed by 14 percent of the February average.
The storm is likely to be an anomaly this spring as the Weather Service expects above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation to dominate northern Arizona through May.
Despite the strong storm, much of Arizona will remain in a long-term drought, National Weather Service meteorologist George Howard said Thursday.