Most people associate Arizona weather with nothing other than sun. But parts of Arizona — specifically Flagstaff and higher elevations in northern and southern Arizona – experience plenty of snow every winter.
Flagstaff has already seen record snowfall levels this winter and surpassed both February and March’s monthly average snowfall totals. Here is how much has fallen so far.
1. Total Snowfall – January 2023
This winter season has already broken records in the north country, including snow levels that exceeded monthly averages in both February and March. According to National Weather Service Flagstaff office data, Flagstaff Pulliam Airport recorded 140.1 inches by Wednesday; surpassing its seasonal record set from July through March set back in 1948-49.
This past weekend’s storm left northern Arizona covered in inches of fresh powder – some areas even receiving up to two feet! As a result, multiple highways across the state were closed, creating hazardous travel conditions across the region and closing several highways in turn.
In 1968 to 1969, snowstorms blanketing northern Arizona caused schools to close early for holiday break and caused Flagstaff Junior High School’s roof to collapse, as well as leading the university to close early for holiday break. Another storm blocked Interstate 40 for hours at a time causing further delays.
At that same period in January, another storm dumped more than three feet of snow onto Kaibab Plateau and Mogollon Rim, breaking 45-year single-day snowfall records in Flagstaff and setting some of its biggest total snowfall totals since official measurements began in 1893 (seasonal average for Flagstaff is 101.1 inches).
2. Total Snowfall – January 1949
While Phoenix and Tucson woke up to rain-like monsoon conditions, Arizona’s High Country experienced winter with Flagstaff receiving half a foot of snow before noon; an unprecedented event for this time of year.
Last time this much snow fell in Navajo City was 1949 when an unprecedented 70-inch snowfall caused havoc throughout town and left thousands without food or shelter.
January was marked by multiple, large storm systems sweeping across the state and depositing large amounts of snowfall. Measureable accumulation occurred on 16 days – second most since records began being kept in 1898 – totalling 60.4 inches for Flagstaff City Hall alone and making this month the third-snowiest on record after 1949 when 104.8 inches fell.
This year’s snowfall continues to surpass typical monthly averages in February and March, reaching 140.1 inches at Flagstaff Pulliam Airport on March 1, just days short of breaking 1948-49’s record of 153.9 inches set during that winter season.
3. Total Snowfall – February 2010
Last February was Flagstaff’s snowiest month since records began in 1898 – with 38 inches being measured compared with over 60 in 1948.
That doesn’t mean the area hasn’t seen some major snowfalls recently – this year has already been the second-snowiest on record in Flagstaff and surrounding communities such as Winslow, Prescott and Payson!
Snowy conditions have caused havoc across the region’s roads and highways. Congestion was rampant; traffic jams and crashes became common; several accidents even led to major delays on I-40. Luckily, it appears as though the worst of snowy conditions may be over; breezy to windy weather is predicted for this weekend.
Though Flagstaff experiences impressive snowfall levels, its extent can differ widely year after year. One in four years see December snow totals over 27 inches while 25 percent receive less than 9.3 inches. Furthermore, first snowfall of the season could arrive as early as October or as late as January; heavy falls usually take place between December and January while April remains snow-free.
4. Total Snowfall – February 2017
An immense winter storm, known as Quiana, dumped massive amounts of snow across northern Arizona including Flagstaff. Breaking single-day records at both Flagstaff airport and Show Low Airport; as well as declaring states of emergencies in cities like Winslow, Payson, Petrified Forest National Park and Montezuma Castle National Monument – even closing State Route 87 between Payson and Winslow due to unsafe driving conditions due to snow.
Flagstaff has become the snowiest big city in the US since December 2016, totaling 101.7 inches since then – far exceeding its normal season average of 90.1 inches and only seconded by Seattle in terms of total accumulation.
Winter has only just begun, and Flagstaff could experience another record-setting month. Ski resorts in particular are already reveling in an abundance of fresh powder.
Wednesday morning found Phoenix covered with snowfall, and other parts of Arizona should anticipate wetter than average conditions across the state. But remember that moisture doesn’t equal rain – updates on snowfall totals will likely come later today or early tomorrow morning.