Winter’s last gasp dumped a foot of snow on Payson Sunday, producing the best excuse all year to sleep in, start a fire and do, well, absolutely nothing.
“Heaven is a pot-bellied stove and not a thing to do but watch the flakes fall,” said one resident.
The storm gave Payson a whole different feel for spring break, with the schools out of session there was no need for a snow day. But don’t put away the suntan oil just yet — the National Weather Service insists it’ll be 70 degrees by Thursday, with a beautiful weekend for basking on the banks of the East Verde on tap.
The Sunday storm rumbled in late and lingered through Monday, leaving the Snowbowl ski resort above Flagstaff the gift of 53 inches, according to the Weather Service.
Flagstaff received between 23 and 29 inches, while Pinetop recorded 21 inches.
Payson reports show a total of 12.5 inches, while Pine officially received a total of 13 inches — although at least one resident with a snow gauge counted 17 inches.
Many Pine residents couldn’t get out of their buried driveways onto the unplowed streets on Monday morning.
At the peak of the storm, Rim Country was partially cut off, as the Arizona Department of Transportation closed both Highways 260 and 87, north of Pine and up to the Rim. The state also at times shut down Interstate 17 leading to Flagstaff and Interstate 40 near Winslow.
The storm remained centered between Flagstaff and Payson. The higher altitude White Mountain communities like Alpine and the Grand Canyon received just 5 or 6 inches. Sedona managed to accumulate 9.5 inches, but nearby Jerome reported just 6 inches.
By and large, Rim Country residents handled the snowy last day of winter with aplomb, making the most of a cozy Sunday and mostly straggling into work on Monday with a sigh and a shrug.
The Gila County Sheriff’s Office reported only a handful of weather related problems Sunday as deputies scurried to shut down roads before people could get stuck. Deputies reported that several cars slid off the road on Highway 260 near milepost 262 on Sunday afternoon. Deputies also helped motorists stuck in the snow off Houston Mesa Road and on Highway 260 between Star Valley and Payson. But mostly residents savored the last storm of the winter of 2012, which interrupted a year that had until now delivered only a fraction of the normal rainfall.
The snow started to fall Sunday — big, dry, kitten-sized flakes that coated trees and bushes. Sunday night, winds blasted through, swirling the flakes into a slanted blizzard of white beneath the streetlights — plastering the sides of pines with a compressed coating.
The Weather Service gave the storm a bare 50/50 chance of lingering into the evening on Monday, with a predicted low of 18 degrees. We could get another two inches to add to Sunday’s season-high total.
“What a place to live,” commented one Rim resident. “Cross-country skis on Monday and an inner tube and beach umbrella by Friday.”