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Jeffrey Phelps 

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald makes a diving catch for a first down late in the second half against the Green Bay Packers Sunday in Green Bay, Wis. Arizona won 20-17.

Flagstaff drivers struggle in first winter storm; second storm on horizon

Flagstaff drivers were thrown into snowbanks and slid on icy roads as the snowplows cleared roads for the first winter snowstorm this past weekend.

The storms dropped 7 to 11 inches this weekend depending on which part of Flagstaff you were counting in, according to the National Weather Service, but across the city, the amount of calls for assistance from the Flagstaff Police Department spiked. The first weather system dropped snow late Thursday night while the second system left powder late Saturday night into early Sunday morning.

From Friday through Monday morning there were 143 accidents, according to Cory Runge, spokesperson from the Flagstaff Police Department.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Noah Garcia, 19, is lost in a swirl of snow as he sleds at the end of Lone Tree Road Sunday afternoon.

The worst parts of the storm for drivers came from the first snowfall on Thursday night and Friday morning. After that first half-foot of snow, drivers were involved in a total of 88 accidents that did not result in any injuries and 22 accidents where people were hurt.

Flagstaff drivers had the toughest time after the first storm, calling in 44 accidents without injuries each day on Friday and Saturday. Drivers were involved in 10 accidents where people were hurt on Friday and 12 on Saturday.

The second storm on Sunday left 2 to 5 inches and was much less dangerous, with only 12 non-injury accidents and nine injury accidents.

Runge explained that from Friday through Monday morning the weekend before, there were only 42 non-injury accidents and four accidents with injuries.

“We would ask that the public extend the distances that they’re following other vehicles,” Runge said. “Drive extremely slow. A lot of the time the icy conditions make it difficult to stop. Avoid driving in severe weather.”

Return of the snowpack

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Tyler Mach, 19, hangs on to the plastic tote he was using as a sled after falling out Sunday afternoon on the sledding hill at the end of Lone Tree Road.

This past weekend’s storm dropped up to 7 inches in Williams, but the upcoming storm set for later this week likely won’t hit that low of an elevation. The storm is forecast to be warmer, according to Justin Johndrow, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Bellemont.

Johndrow explained that based off his Monday forecasts, if we do get snow, it will likely come on Thursday night.

“If it does snow, it will probably be a wet snow,” he said. He added that the weather will be warmer on Tuesday and Wednesday before the system moves in.

The high temperature Tuesday in Flagstaff is expected to be 43 degrees, with a low of just 18. It moves up to 48 degrees on Wednesday, with a slight chance of snow showers after 11 p.m. that evening. The National Weather Service currently lists a 50 percent chance of snow Thursday and a 40 percent chance of precipitation on Friday, with highs returning to the mid-40s by the weekend.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Members of the Northern Arizona University cross country team stand behind the Flagstaff City Council and Coconino Board of Supervisors after being recognized by both groups for their third national cross country title.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans, left, and Art Babbott, chairman of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, third from left, greet members of the cross country team from Northern Arizona University Monday afternoon. For more photos, visit

At Capitol, Bush saluted as 'gentle soul'

WASHINGTON — The nation's capital embraced George H.W. Bush in death Monday with solemn ceremony and high tributes to his service and decency, as the remains of the 41st president took their place in the Capitol rotunda for three days of mourning and praise by the political elite and everyday citizens alike.

With Bush's casket atop the Lincoln Catafalque, first used for Abraham Lincoln's 1865 funeral, dignitaries came forward to honor the Texan whose efforts for his country extended three quarters of a century from World War II through his final years as an advocate for volunteerism and relief for people displaced by natural disaster.

President from 1989 to 1993, Bush died Friday at age 94.

In an invocation opening Monday evening's ceremony, the U.S. House chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J Conroy, praised Bush's commitment to public service, from Navy pilot to congressman, U.N. ambassador, envoy to China and then CIA director before being elected vice president and then president.

"Here lies a great man," said Rep. Paul Ryan, the House speaker, and "a gentle soul. ... His legacy is grace perfected."

Vice President Mike Pence and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell also spoke. President Donald Trump did not attend, but he and first lady Melania Trump came to the Capitol later Monday to pay tribute. They stood in front of the casket with their eyes closed for a few moments, before Trump saluted the casket.

Political combatants set aside their fights to honor a Republican who led in a less toxic era and at times found commonality with Democrats despite sharp policy disagreements. Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, past and incoming House speaker, exchanged a warm hug with George W. Bush and came away dabbing her face. Bush himself seemed to be holding back tears.

Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, placed wreaths in the short ceremony before the rotunda was to be opened to the public. It was to remain open overnight.

Sent off from Texas with a 21-gun salute, Bush's casket was carried to Joint Base Andrews outside the capital city aboard an aircraft that often serves as Air Force One and designated "Special Air Mission 41" in honor of Bush's place on the chronological list of presidents. His eldest son, former President George W. Bush, and others from the family traveled on the flight from Houston.

Cannon fire roared again outside the Capitol as the sun sank and the younger President Bush stood with his hand over his heart, watching the casket's procession up the steps.

Bush was remembered just feet away from what he called "Democracy's front porch," the west-facing steps of the Capitol where he was sworn in as president.

He will lie in state in the Capitol for public visitation through Wednesday. An invitation-only funeral service, which the Trumps will attend, is set for Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral.

Although Bush's funeral services are suffused with the flourishes accorded presidents, by his choice they will not include a formal funeral procession through downtown Washington.

On Sunday, students, staff and visitors had flocked to Bush's presidential library on the campus of Texas A&M University, with thousands of mourners paying their respects at a weekend candlelight vigil at a nearby pond and others contributing to growing flower memorials at Bush statues at both the library and a park in downtown Houston.

"I think he was one of the kindest, most generous men," said Marge Frazier, who visited the downtown statue Sunday while showing friends from California around.

After services in Washington, Bush will be returned to Houston to lie in repose at St. Martin's Episcopal Church before burial Thursday at his family plot on the library grounds. His final resting place will be alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years who died in April, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukemia in 1953 at age 3.

Trump has ordered the federal government closed Wednesday for a national day of mourning. Flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff for 30 days.

Bush's passing puts him back in the Washington spotlight after more than two decades living the relatively low-key life of a former president. His death also reduces membership in the ex-presidents' club to four: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

One of Bush's major achievements was assembling the international military coalition that liberated the tiny, oil-rich nation of Kuwait from invading neighbor Iraq in 1991. The war lasted just 100 hours. He also presided over the end of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

He was denied a second term by Arkansas Gov. Clinton, who would later become a close friend. The pair worked together to raise tens of millions of dollars for victims of a 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and of Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.

"Who would have thought that I would be working with Bill Clinton of all people?" he joked in 2005.

In a recent essay, Clinton declared of Bush: "I just loved him."

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Terry Packer clears his driveway after the first of a pair of winter storms dropped more than four inches of snow overnight. A second storm brought more snow over the weekend.


This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. After a two-year chase, a NASA spacecraft has arrived at the ancient asteroid Bennu, its first visitor in billions of years. The robotic explorer Osiris-Rex pulled within 12 miles (19 kilometers) of the diamond-shaped space rock Monday, Dec. 3. The image, which was taken by the PolyCam camera, shows Bennu at 300 pixels and has been stretched to increase contrast between highlights and shadows. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona via AP)

Dry and getting drier: Water scarcity in Southwest is the new norm, study says

GREELEY, Colo. – The effects of climate change are not far off challenges for future generations. They are existential problems for everyone alive today.

That’s one big takeaway from the U.S. federal government’s latest roundup of climate science, the National Climate Assessment, now in its fourth iteration.

In short, declarative sentences that are heavily footnoted, the report urgently tells readers that climate change is happening, it’s human-caused and it could make life in the Western U.S. increasingly difficult.

The report is a product of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, an amalgam of 13 federal agencies. Its publication is required by law.

In a chapter dedicated to climate change effects in the Southwest, climate scientists said “with very high confidence” that high temperatures are reducing the water content of mountain snowpack and the flows of rivers and streams that depend on snowmelt. The chapter’s landing page features a photo of low water levels at the nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead outside Las Vegas, a nearly perfect symbol of the region’s ongoing water challenges.

Mead is fed by the Colorado River, whose watershed provides drinking and irrigation water for 40 million people across seven U.S. states and two states in Mexico. In addition to sapping the nation’s largest desert reservoirs, the report said, the changing climate also is leading to more intense droughts, increasing the risk of severe floods, weakening key infrastructure projects and depleting groundwater.

Without new ways to manage water and cut greenhouse gas emissions, the report said, existing gaps between water supplies and demands in the Southwest will only continue to grow.

Much of the report confirms and reconfirms what scientists already know. Here are the biggest takeaways for the Southwest, defined as Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.

Water security

"Water security in the United States is increasingly in jeopardy."

That sentence greets readers of third chapter, dedicated to exploring how climate change will stress U.S. water infrastructure.

In a scenario where greenhouse gas emissions increase, the report said, the entire region could see its average annual temperature rise an additional 8.6 degrees by 2100. Southern parts of the region, which include Phoenix, Tucson and San Diego, could see their summers extend well into the spring and fall, with 45 more days each year where temperatures climb past 90 degrees.

That warming means areas of the Southwest already at risk for long-term drought are seeing the risk increase for more intense, prolonged droughts in the future. Droughts can materialize from both a lack of precipitation and a rise in temperature, and then be exacerbated by human activities. Each drought is the product of particular circumstances, the report noted, and can be intensified by dwindling groundwater, which in some regions acts as a buffer against scarce surface-water supplies.

Other studies have shown that rising temperatures in the Colorado River Basin are depleting river flows and increasing evaporation in streams and reservoirs. From 2000 to 2014, the driest period of record on the Colorado, climate change tipped the scales toward higher temperatures, resulting in streamflow reductions of 17 to 50 percent.

Drought can occur naturally, the report noted, but the increase in temperature from climate change can amplify the effects, causing a more typical drought to last longer and cause more damage. This is true for the recent drought in California and the ongoing Colorado River drought.

Underlining the fact that some climate change effects already are being felt, the Colorado River system hit a new low point earlier this year when its key reservoirs dropped to levels not seen in decades.

Shrinking snowpack

Southern Rocky Mountain snowpack in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah supplies the vast majority of river flows in the Colorado River watershed. And it’s becoming increasingly scarce.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, climate models project significant reductions in mountain snowpack – and not simply because of decreased precipitation. Higher temperatures, especially at lower elevations, result in precipitation falling as rain, which holds less water than snow.

The warming also can shorten snowfall seasons. In the most extreme scenario modeled in the report, portions of California’s mountains that currently receive snow “would begin to receive more precipitation as rain and then only rain by 2050.”

Lower elevations in the southern Rockies that currently receive snow could begin to see their accumulations deteriorate, the report said. Even under a high emissions scenario, it’s unlikely snow would be completely eliminated at high elevations where lower temperatures are projected to remain.

To make up for reduced streamflows, the Southwest would need a large increase in precipitation, something the report doesn’t predict.

Snow droughts, like the dry winter of 2017-18, can be caused by a lack of precipitation, temperatures that are too high for snow to form or a combination of the two, the report said.

Can we adapt?

Some parts of the Southwest already are showing resilience in the face of a warming climate, the report said.

Many of the region’s biggest cities, including Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver and Los Angeles, have cut their per capita water use for the past three decades at the same time population has grown. Much of that savings is due to conservation measures, such as lawn-buyback programs, water efficiency upgrades in homes and investments in water reuse technology. But urban conservation alone can’t solve the region’s water woes.

The near certainty of severe water shortages adds pressure to water managers. The report challenged those officials to create more flexible methods of managing existing water supplies.

Figuring out who should use less water to help the region adapt to a drier, warmer future won’t be easy. Water use reductions across the Southwest are driving the creation of Drought Contingency Plans currently being negotiated by the seven U.S. states that rely on the Colorado River. Even those negotiators say the plans are a stopgap solution to prevent the river’s largest reservoirs from crashing, not a long term response to warming and drying trends.

The report also throws a wet blanket on some of the sexier solutions to Southwestern water scarcity. Desalination of ocean water often is trotted out as a possible savior for cities and farms. But current desalination technology “creates greenhouse gas emissions and its capital costs are high.”

Still, the report’s authors praised Colorado River managers for creating some flexibilities in the system. For example, in 2007, amid record dry conditions, Arizona, California and Nevada signed an agreement to allow users to forgo water deliveries and store supplies in Lake Mead.