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Freezing winds snap trees and cut power around Flagstaff
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Freezing winds snap trees and cut power around Flagstaff

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When Puka Lewicky walked out of her ranch home adjacent to Highway 180 to feed her Arabian horses Tuesday morning, she expected things to be cold after hearing the howling wind sometime after midnight.

What she didn't expect was to see her beloved 100-year-old tree in her front yard snapped in half like a twig.

The freezing wind came as a stark contrast to a series of record-breaking high temperatures just two weeks before. Around Flagstaff, power outages, broken branches and trees, blown-over fences and even two deaths believed to be from exposure to the elements rocked the city.

"This has never happened," Lewicky said, looking at the downed tree and describing how her home doesn't get much windier than the downtown area.

The National Weather Service reported that wind at the Flagstaff Airport gusted up to 40 mph this morning. Unofficial wind readings on the Humphreys Trail showed winds accelerating as high as 60 mph.

Lewicky said the tree in her front yard was climbed by her son, shaded her family during a family wedding, and had grown there since they bought the house decades ago. In her mind, the wind had to be powerful to take it down.

"I'll tell you, I was shocked and impressed," Lewicky said. "This was not an ordinary storm."

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On Sunday, Doney Park was hit with notably high winds coming off the mountains. Gusts reaching as high as 65 mph that day led to trampolines being lifted away, sheds badly damaged and at least one report of a fallen ponderosa pine tree.

The low temperatures aren't necessarily surprising for Flagstaff, or other parts of northeastern Arizona where some areas saw anywhere from 7 to 13 inches of snow. However, this cold front has slammed into a large majority of the west, according to Brian Klimowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"It was a very significant and highly unusual event for this part of the country, moreso for the northern Rockies and the cities that spent multiple days of record low temperatures in Montana," Klimowski said.

APS reported as many as 324 customers without power as the wind knocked down branches and power lines beginning at 9:33 p.m. Monday night.

The outages affected homes from Appalachian Road to Cedar Avenue and Paradise Road to Fourth Street, according to APS spokesman Jim McDonald. Power was restored to the area by 1:33 p.m. Tuesday.

This week, Flagstaff can expect weather peaking at 59 to 65 degrees and dropping to temperatures around 22 to 31 degrees overnight. Winds are forecast to decrease to 4 to 10 mph, never gusting higher than 21 mph.

Nonetheless, the high winds and lack of precipitation led officials with the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests to announce that stage 1 fire restrictions would remain in place for the next several weeks.

The Coconino and Kaibab forests are renewing their latest Stage 1 fire restrictions forest orders, which means the public can expect restrictions to be in place at least through the end of November, unless significant moisture is received across the forests and the forest orders are officially rescinded at an earlier date.

“We want to emphasize that northern Arizona is not out of fire season and there is a potential for large, severe wildfires, as we witnessed with the recent Horse Fire on the Prescott National Forest,” said Jeremy Human, Coconino NF deputy fire staff officer. “The forest needs the public’s continued support in preventing unwanted, human-caused wildfires, and asks that visitors follow Stage 1 restrictions and refrain from having campfires.”

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