A frigid spring storm blew through northern Arizona on Wednesday, bringing with it a mix of rain, sleet and wet snow. High temperatures are typically around 70 degrees for this time of year, but the high for Wednesday was 43 degrees and came at 1:30 a.m. Temperatures hovered around freezing for much of the day.
"It's a bit on the unusual side, but not unprecedented," said Ken Daniel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bellemont. "It's an unusually strong and cold system coming down from the northwest, and it's bringing in some moisture as it moves across the state."
No road closures were reported, but blowing dust and icy pavement made driving hazardous, with accidents clogging up Interstate 40 and Interstate 17. Winds gusting over 40 mph whipped up dust along I-40 between Flagstaff and Winslow and forced the Arizona Department of Public Safety to escort cars along a 5-mile stretch.
A Flagstaff Unified School District school bus collided with an SUV on westbound I-40, 2 miles from Bellemont, while carrying a student home from New Start School in the afternoon. According to Sgt. Gary Phelps of DPS, the SUV was attempting to pass the schoolbus in the fast lane when it lost control and spun out into the bus. No one on the schoolbus was injured, but the driver of the SUV received minor injuries and was transported to the Flagstaff Medical Center. There was heavy snow in the area at the time that also caused three other collisions.
There were multiple rollover accidents on I-17 and a major rollover accident reported on Lake Mary Road. Thick fog was considered a factor in some of the accidents.
According to Mackenzie Nuno of the Arizona Department of Transportation, snowplows had to be deployed on Highway 180 between Snowbowl Road and the Flagstaff Nordic Center because of several inches of snow on the pavement.
Arizona Snowbowl, which officially closed for skiing more than a month ago, received around 3 inches of snow at Hart Prairie Lodge and was forced to plow Snowbowl Road several times during the day. The resort still plans to start running the Scenic Skyride on Memorial Day Weekend.
Anthony Quintile of Flagstaff Biking, which organizes Bike to Work Week, said that around 200 people registered online Wednesday as having ridden their bikes to work. And despite the chilly conditions, many of the businesses giving out free breakfast still had a strong turnout.
"In the promotion of this event, what you always hope for is sunny skies and no wind," he said. "So when you have the opposite and still have a good turnout, that speaks volumes about bike riders in Flagstaff."
The bike-in movie scheduled for tonight in Foxglenn Park has been canceled due to the possibility of continued wet weather.
Snow and rain were expected to continue through last night, but the National Weather Service says chances of precipitation will diminish today.
A third of an inch of precipitation was recorded at Flagstaff's Pulliam Airport as of Wednesday afternoon and only a trace of snow had fallen in Flagstaff.
Eric Betz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 556-2250.