Storm Covers Rim Country

Payson gets 9 inches sitting in snowstorm’s ‘sweet spot’


This rollover occurred during Wednesday’s snowstorm on Highway 87 at Slate Creek.

This rollover occurred during Wednesday’s snowstorm on Highway 87 at Slate Creek.

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This vehicle slid off Airport Road near Earhart Dr.

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Caitlin Gann takes full advantage of a snow day and powder on a Green Valley Park slope.

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Many Pine residents had to wait for snowplows to clear the roads before they could get out of their homes

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Payson residents made the most of a storm which turned parks into snow play zones. This is Gillum Gann preparing for a spill.

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The Rim Country Museum across the Green Valley Park Lake.

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A 150-foot section of Hwy. 89 near Page buckled mysteriously.

“You were in the sweet spot for snow accumulation,” said Chris Outler, meteorologist for the National Weather Service (NWS), referring to the storm that blew through the Rim Country this week.

The storm dumped nearly a foot of snow on Rim Country with almost 9 inches in Pine, 5 to 9 inches in Payson, and as much as 10 inches in Strawberry.

Some reports showed the Flagstaff airport got less than 6 inches, Show Low got about 5 inches and Sedona got about 2 inches — although it’s at about the same elevation as Payson.

But the biggest snowfall shock in the state probably registered at Tucson and Phoenix, where an inch or two threw everyone into a tizzy. In Marana just north of Tucson, the snow forced the suspension of the World Golf Championships-Match Play tournament.

By contrast, the thick covering of snow in Payson prompted an outbreak of snow toys, mostly deployed by teens happily banking their second snow day of the year.

Outler said a Pacific storm swept down from Oregon picking up moisture to dump wet, heavy snow on the Rim Country, causing accidents, closing schools and making roads impassable.

The snow fell on Payson all day Wednesday, sometimes turning just-plowed streets white, schools from the Payson Unified School District to the Gila Community College closed for the second snow day in two weeks.

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), closed portions of highways around the state.

A 150-foot section of Highway 89 south of Page buckled one side of the road into a car-height barrier making travel impossible.

ADOT has re-routed traffic on a detour that adds 45 miles to the trip. Travelers to Page must go east on US 160 to SR 98 and north on SR 98 to Page.

Officials haven’t released a firm cause of the earth movement, but initially cited a “geologic event.”

For most of Wednesday, ADOT required chains or four-wheel drive on SR 87 outside of town.

Payson Police Chief Don Engler said the department had a few traffic mishaps to clean up.

“One motorist skidded off Airport Road,” he said.

Emergency vehicles helped at the scene.

South of Payson near Mt. Ord, Payson police Sgt. Donny Garvin came upon a truck that had rolled. He assisted the driver who appeared uninjured.

With the more frequent storms, it would seem the Rim Country is swimming in precipitation, but Outler said no.

“The whole state is several inches behind,” he said.

Unlike typical Rim Country storms, the gun-metal gray skies continued from Wednesday all through Thursday, allowing the snow to remain piled up on plants, cars and roofs.

Thursday saw light flurries throughout the day, but only enough to cause drivers to turn on windshield wipers for a couple of swipes.

The NWS Web site predicted the weather would remain unstable throughout the weekend, with sun on Friday and Sunday, but with a little weather bump on Saturday.

“This is a weak trailing wave of a storm system with only a small chance of light snow,” Outler said of the weekend weather. “This will be more of a temperature changer.”

Despite the sequence of winter storms, reservoirs and streams mostly remain below normal, according to the Salt River Project’s monitoring system.

For instance, on Thursday the Salt River was flowing at 300 cubic feet per second as it entered Roosevelt Lake — about 40 percent of normal.

The Verde River and Tonto Creek were doing better.

Tonto Creek had a flow of 91, a little more than the normal 76.

The Verde River at Tangle had 405 cubic feet per second, compared to a normal of 372 cfs.

Nor have the storms added much to the reservoirs on which the Valley depends.

The four reservoirs on the Salt River held just 55 percent of their capacity — with Roosevelt at 47 percent — which still adds up to about 760,000 acre-feet. The much smaller Verde River reservoirs held 65 percent of their capacity, or about 185,000 acre-feet.

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