PHOENIX (AP) — Some Phoenix residents were roused before dawn Friday not by shopping deals, but extremely gusty weather.
A wintry storm packed an unexpected punch overnight up and down Arizona, delivering snow, rain and in Phoenix’s case — tornado warnings. Crews around town spent the morning cleaning up downed trees and minor flooding. Firefighters rescued one driver whose SUV became stuck in a flooded wash.
Some parts of metro Phoenix saw gusts between 60 and 70 mph (97-113 kph), according to The National Weather Service.
The agency issued one warning around 1 a.m. in the areas of north Phoenix and north Scottsdale. It put out a second one around 4:45 a.m. in an area near Mesa Gateway Airport.
The National Weather Service announced on Friday evening that three tornadoes had hit parts of the Phoenix area very early on Friday morning.
Bianca Hernandez, a meteorologist, said tornado warnings are highly unusual for Arizona any time of the year.
She says the wet and wild weather was the culmination of a strong cold front that came from California. Phoenix and its suburbs received at least three-quarters of an inch of rain. Residents will likely see small bursts of popcorn showers and thunderstorms that will taper off before the weekend.
Meanwhile, Tusayan, which is about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Grand Canyon National Park, declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon. Coconino County officials said via Twitter that the town was deluged with blizzard-like weather and has been without electricity since 3 a.m. The American Red Cross has set up a shelter at a National Park Service training center inside the park.
The Grand Canyon’s South Rim area saw at least 15 inches (38 centimeters) of snow, according to the National Weather Service in Flagstaff. Park officials are urging travelers to stay off the road for the rest of the day.
The Arizona Department of Transportation did reopen two highways in northern part of the state. Northbound Interstate 17 north of the Sedona turnoff and Interstate 40 near Flagstaff were forced to close Thursday night because of snow.
Flagstaff and Prescott received 12 inches (30 centimeters) and up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow, respectively, by late Friday morning.
Other power outages led the American Red Cross to also open a warming center at a Prescott Valley high school. Any local residents can wait out the cold with water and snacks.
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