FLAGSTAFF, Arizona — A slow-moving storm out of the Pacific Northwest brought forceful wind and heavy rain to much of the West and threatens to drop as much as a foot of snow on higher elevations before it moves out of the region.
Snow was piling up Wednesday in northern Arizona and Yellowstone National Park, and lower elevations in Utah got a dusting of snow. Meanwhile, temperatures were expected to dip below freezing in northwest Arizona and southern Nevada — areas where the weather generally is mild this time of year.
Drier, warmer weather was expected to return Thursday as the storm pushes into the Plains and eventually into Canada, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Anglin in Wyoming.
Here's a look at how the storm is impacting the West:
IS SNOW UNUSUAL THIS TIME OF YEAR?
Not really. While the wintry weather is a bit on the early side for places such as Flagstaff, Arizona, it's not unheard of for the mountain city that sits at 7,000 feet.
In contrast, the arrival of snow is late in Wyoming due to an unusually warm fall.
"They're really eager to get the precipitation," Anglin said. "It's been so dry lately."
WHERE IS IT SNOWING?
Parts of Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, Montana and Utah all got snow.
Flagstaff broke a 90-year record with more than 5 inches Wednesday. The Mount Rose Ski Resort near Reno opened one trail Wednesday after getting more than a foot of snow — three weeks ahead of the scheduled opening of most Sierra Nevada resorts.
IS THE WEATHER CREATING PROBLEMS?
Trees snapped and power lines went down in Nevada; a mountain pass in Aspen, Colorado, closed early because of heavy snowfall; and an 83-year-old man died after getting lost in the snow near Carson City, Nevada.
The heavy snow and wind were expected to make travel hazardous in eastern Utah and the Rockies. A freeze warning in effect overnight for northwest Arizona and southern Nevada could kill crops and sensitive plants.
Residents of Flagstaff took the wintry weather in stride, building snowmen, having snowball fights and running — some in shorts.
IS THIS EL NINO-RELATED?
It's hard to say. El Nino is a seasonal warming of the Pacific Ocean that allows more moisture to evaporate into the atmosphere.
The condition can change the location of the jet stream that steers storms.
Mark Stubblefield of the National Weather Service said the El Nino phenomenon is expected to lead to more frequent but not necessarily more intense storms this winter.