National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Header

NWS Flagstaff Logo

 

Media is free to use the NWS Flagstaff Event Summary information. Please acknowledge the NWS as the source of any information accessed from the site unless otherwise noted.

NWS Flagstaff Logo

Summary
 

A series of winter storms crossed northern Arizona beginning on Friday January 22nd and continued through Tuesday January 26th. The first system brought several inches of snow over the weekend, mainly to the higher elevations.

A second, colder system significantly lowered snow levels on Monday and Tuesday, bringing heavy snowfall to areas as low as 3,000 feet. Two notable lower-elevation areas that received significant snowfall were Sedona (around 4,300') and Prescott / Prescott Valley (5,200-5,700'). The widespread heavy snowfall and intermittent near blizzard conditions brought numerous road closures and power outages to the area. This page will focus on the second, high-impact storm from early Monday January 25th through Tuesday afternoon January 26th.

 
Timeline
 
Radar Loop January 25, 2021Radar Loop From 11 AM - 5 PM January 25, 2021. Periods of white out conditions were reported as the main band swept across the state from west to east.

 

Snowfall ReportsHere is a look at the reported snowfall amounts around northern Arizona from January 25th-26th. This does not take into account the first storm which dropped several inches of snow across the higher terrain.

 

 

GOES-17 True Color Satellite Imagery After The StormGOES-17 True Color Satellite Imagery. Images were captured in the morning hours of Wednesday, January 27, 2021 and show the expansive snowpack across northern Arizona.
Observed Storm Total Snow from Monday to Tuesday eveningImage created using single point observed snowfall reports from Monday through Tuesday evening interpolated across the County Warning Area. Terrain influence was automatically factored in the interpolation.

 

  • Morning hours January 25th:
    • After a lull in the snowfall following the first storm, snow coverage began to increase first across Coconino and Yavapai counties then spread east through the morning
  • Afternoon hours January 25th:
    • The most impactful period of the storm as an intense band of precipitation along the cold front brought near blizzard conditions with nearly impossible travel conditions
      • ‚ÄčEarly afternoon: In the Prescott area
      • Mid to late afternoon: Spreading northeast along I-40 from Ash Fork to Winona
  • Night of January 25th into the morning of January 26th:
    • Intense post frontal snow showers spread from southwest to northeast across northern Arizona as snow levels fell to around 2000-2500 feet. Several inches of additional accumulation was reported in most areas with nearly a foot of snow measured at the NWS Office in Bellemont from 5 PM Monday through 5 AM Tuesday. Travel remained nearly impossible across a large chunk of the area during this timeframe.
  • Afternoon of January 26th:
    • The trough pushed east through the afternoon hours on Tuesday with snow shower activity decreasing in coverage and intensity. While travel conditions did improve some, several roadways remained closed as snow removal continued. Precipitation ended across the entire area during the early evening hours.
Impacts
  • Loss of power was reported in the community of Mayer during the height of the storm.
  • School districts around northern Arizona cancelled distance learning on January 25th and 26th due to staff being unable to make it to their schools.
  • Flights were cancelled at KFLG airport on January 26th and January 27th due to heavy persistent snowfall covering the runway.
  • Roads, highways and interstates were shutdown due to the winter weather conditions both during and after the storm.
    • Interstate 40 eastbound from Ash Fork to Williams between mileposts 145-160
    • Interstate 40 westbound between Flagstaff and Bellemont
    • State Route 89 in both directions from Chino Valley to Interstate 40 (mileposts 328-363)
    • Interstate 17 northbound between SR 179 and Lake Mary Road (mileposts 299-340)
    • US 191 from mileposts 225-254 (just south of Alpine)
    • State Route 87 between the Bush Highway and Winslow (mileposts 236-342)
    • State Route 260 between Star Valley and Heber, and from east of Camp Verde to SR 87
    • US 60 in both directions from Globe to Show Low
    • State Route 89A between Sedona and Interstate 17, and from Jerome to Clarkdale
    • State Route 89 from north of Peeples Valley to just south of Prescott
    • State Route 288 westbound between SR 188 and Young
Pictures


 

Near blizzard conditions were seen at NWS Bellemont Monday afternoon as the cold front moved through

SR 89A Closed from Flagstaff to Sedona

SR-89A from Flagstaff to Sedona was closed for a few days due to heavy snow and icy conditions. Image courtesy of Arizona Department of Public Safety

2-3 feet of snow in Flagstaff

2-3 feet of snow fell in the Flagstaff area leaving many people stuck indoors. Image courtesy of Ricardo Acevedo

Several inches in Crown King

Several inches of snow was reported in Crown King as snow levels fell Monday into Tuesday. Image courtesy of Ian Dougherty

Heavy snow in Flagstaff

Snow blanketed the Flagstaff area with some neighborhood roads becoming impassable on Tuesday. Image courtesy of Patrick Hoyack

I-40 Slideoff in Flagstaff

Roads became very treacherous Monday morning and travel conditions worsened through the day. This semi slid off I-40 in Flagstaff. Image courtesy of Arizona DOT

37 inches in Kachina Village

37 inches of snow was measured near the end of the event on Tuesday in Kachina Village. Image courtesy of Ann Piper

Near blizzard conditions north of Ash Fork

Near blizzard conditions were seen across much of northern Arizona Monday afternoon and evening as the cold front moved through. Image courtesy of Robin Perkins

3 feet of snow in Parks

A little over three feet of snow was measured in Parks by the time the storm ended on Tuesday afternoon. Image courtesy of Dennis Knoll Sr

Plow in Bellemont

Plows were kept busy throughout the event with heavy snowfall rates and falling temperatures. This plow is seen clearing neighborhood streets in Bellemont. Image courtesy of Felicia Fonseca

I-40 in Bellemont

Heavy snow and gusty winds led to near impossible driving conditions at times, especially on Monday afternoon. This is a look at I-40 near Bellemont during the storm. Image courtesy of Felicia Fonseca

I-40 Westbound RV Wreck

Road closures and severe travel impacts were common across much of northern Arizona as snow levels fell to as low as 2000 feet by Tuesday afternoon. Image courtesy of Felicia Fonseca

Meteorology
 

A fairly persistent La Nina like pattern controlled the weather over the Desert Southwest during the early winter months of 2020-2021. However, a pattern change began to take shape early in the week of January 18th as an area of low pressure cut off near the Baja California coast. While this system had fairly low impacts on northern Arizona, it set the stage for a series of deeper troughs to track farther west along the West Coast.

The first of these systems brought two separate impulses across northern Arizona on Friday night January 22nd and Saturday night into Sunday morning January 23rd and 24th with periods of moderate to heavy precipitation. Each successive shortwave was a bit colder. Snow levels on Friday night were around 6000 feet, lowering to around 4500 feet with the second impulse. Residual low-level moisture and a deeper, colder trough tracking farther west set the stage for the most impactful event from early Monday January 25th through Tuesday January 26th. The low-level moisture already in place combined with a fetch off the Pacific Ocean to create a broad area of heavy precipitation across northern Arizona. Additionally, a strong low level jet at 700 mb of around 40-50 knots brought gusts of 35-45 mph for a brief period along the front resulting in near blizzard conditions. Much colder air aloft (-10 to -15 degrees Celsius) at 700 mb drove snow levels down to 2000-2500 feet. Snow ratios fell to between 15-20:1 by Tuesday as the colder air advected into the region.

Upper Air chart from 5 AM MST on January 25, 2021 showing 500 mb heights, wind barbs and temperatures.Upper Air chart from 5 AM MST on January 25, 2021 showing 500 mb heights (solid black lines), wind barbs (showing wind speed and direction) and temperatures.

 

Upper Air chart from 5 PM MST on January 25, 2021 showing 500 mb heights, wind barbs and temperatures.Upper Air chart from 5 PM MST on January 25, 2021 showing 500 mb heights (solid black lines), wind barbs (showing wind speed and direction) and temperatures.

 

 
Points of Contact
 

For more information on impacts and general inquiries about this event, please reference the contacts below:

  • National Weather Service:
    • Brian Klimowski, Meteorologist-in-Charge at brian.klimowski@noaa.gov
    • Tony Merriman, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at tony.merriman@noaa.gov
  • Arizona Department of Transportation: at info@azdot.gov