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Northern Arizona hit with nearly 18 inches of snow in 24 hours, officials warn of avalanches

The National Weather Service in Flagstaff has extended a  winter storm warning through Thursday after nearly a foot-and-a-half of snow hit the area in the past 24 hours.

Meteorologist Jeremy Mazon says northern Arizona is facing hazardous travel conditions, with many road closures. That includes several spots in both directions along interstate 40.

“There’s more snow to come this week and into the weekend. Some of the heaviest snowfall did occur last night and early this morning but we’re expecting additional snow showers, moderate to heavy snow showers today, tomorrow, Friday and once again on Saturday," Mazon said.

He also says significant rain fell in the Valley as well — at least a third of an inch in most spots and there’s a 60% chance of more showers Wednesday, though flood watches have expired.

Officials warn of avalanches

Coconino County officials are reminding people that the heavy snows now falling in northern Arizona could lead to possible avalanches in the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff.

National Weather Service officials have predicted snow this week reaching 4 feet deep in areas above 10,000 feet. That covers much of the peaks and, if it accumulates, will create avalanche conditions above the tree line.

"And with the amount of snow we’re getting on top of the existing snowpack, that’s gonna make failures in those layers likely, make natural avalanches likely and human triggered avalanches very likely," said Coconino County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue coordinator Aaron Dick. 

The Sheriff's Office notes that mitigation for avalanches is conducted within the popular Arizona Snowbowl but not outside the area. 

They recommend people not travel into those areas until the snow storms have subsided.

Jill Ryan joined KJZZ in 2020 as a morning reporter, and she is currently a field correspondent and Morning Edition producer.