Winter storm sends temperatures plummeting in California

A man's umbrella blows inside out as he walks along downtown Salt Lake City Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. The first major winter storm of the season dumped up to a foot of snow in some parts of the Salt Lake City metro area, snarling traffic on morning commutes to work and school. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

 

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A storm that drenched California over the weekend has turned an Arizona town into one of the coldest cities in the lower 48 while making for a rainy commute in Phoenix, where it was colder than New York City.

Here’s a look at the winter weather across the West:

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ARIZONA

An icy storm in northern Arizona left Bellemont, a small community west of Flagstaff, with a temperature of zero at sunrise Sunday — one of the chilliest temperatures in the lower 48 states at the time, said David Vonderheide of the National Weather Service.

The morning commute in the region Monday was slow as an initial band of snow showers neared an end and a second wave arrived. The Arizona Department of Transportation urged people to stay off major highways if possible.

Weather forecasters said wind gusts up to 40 mph would send snow swirling and further complicate travel.

Meanwhile, rain fell in central and southern Arizona, dropping temperatures in Phoenix to the mid-40s — some 10 degrees colder than New York City.

Bellemont’s low temperatures were due to its location in a flat area surrounded by low hills where cold air struggles to escape, Vonderheide said. At 7,100 feet, it’s slightly higher in elevation than Flagstaff.

“There are mornings every winter where Bellemont is the coldest in the lower 48,” he said.

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UTAH

The state’s first major winter storm dumped a foot of snow in some parts of the Salt Lake City area, creating harrowing commutes.

Highway troopers reported more than 140 accidents and slide-offs in three northern Utah counties early Monday, but none were serious, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce said.

As much as 16 inches of snow was expected by Tuesday in some areas, National Weather Service meteorologist Christine Kruse said. Snow also fell in lighter doses in the Logan and Provo areas and as far south as Zion National Park, where the higher elevations of red rock landscapes were covered in a dusting of snow.

Many city streets were littered with cars stuck in the snow, causing backups and gridlock at some stoplights. The Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City closed and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City cancelled evening classes.

While city residents slogged their way around, ski resort officials celebrated the huge snowstorm that dumped up to a foot at many sites. “Who’s excited for some Powder?” Brighton Ski Resort tweeted.

Only minor delays were reported at Salt Lake City International Airport.

The massive storm marked the latest twist in a topsy-turvy early winter in Utah that saw record high temperatures in the 60s last week.

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CALIFORNIA

A storm that dumped rain and snow across California moved out of the soaked state Monday, leaving behind cold temperatures, powerful winds and pounding surf.

The National Weather Service said temperatures would be about 10 degrees colder than normal in Southern California and would barely top 60 during the day.

A high-surf advisory was in effect for San Diego County through Tuesday, with unpredictable waves up to 8 feet lashing the coast, accompanied by dangerous rip currents.

Drivers were urged to use caution on mountain roads where gusts up to 70 mph were predicted.

Higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada received 1 to 2 feet of snow Sunday, adding to the powder that fell last week to the delight of skiers and snowboarders.

As for the California drought, it is going to take a lot more moisture to end it. So far, there has been a lot of moisture in Northern and Central California, but overall, the state has seen less rainfall and snow than is normal for this time of year.

Watch the above video to see Chuck Clifford’s full report on how the snow is impacting the drought.

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MONTANA AND WYOMING

A wintry storm blowing through Montana and Wyoming was expected to dump at least a foot of snow on some lower-elevation areas and more in the mountains. Blowing snow in central and southern Montana made for treacherous driving conditions. A winter storm warning is in effect for much of the two states.

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Associated Press writers Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Arizona; Matt Volz in Helena, Montana; Janie Har in San Francisco; and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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