FLAGSTAFF, Arizona — The biggest winter storm of the season will hit northern Arizona this weekend, bringing up to two feet of snow to some areas and a chance of flooding to the lower elevations.
The Grand Canyon and Williams are expected to be the hardest hit by the storm that will run from Saturday through Monday. The forecast calls for 17 inches in Flagstaff, where snowfall is about half of what's normal for this time of year, and up to three feet at the Arizona Snowbowl.
Gas stations around Flagstaff are displaying sleds and winter gear for expected crowds of snow revelers. Residents are stocking up on heat sources and being encouraged to prepare for travel by having a full tank of gas, extra clothing, and plenty of food and water.
Motorists can check real-time weather conditions on the Arizona Department of Transportation website.
"If the roads are bad, stay home," said department spokesman Doug Pacey. "But if you have to be out on the roads, plan ahead."
The state's desert areas won't escape the storm and could see some flooding, forecasters said. The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for late Saturday night through Monday for parts of east-central and south-central Arizona, north Phoenix, Scottsdale, Wickenburg and east Mesa. Southern Arizona also will see widespread rain and snow.
Between 1 and 3 inches of rain will fall in Oak Creek Canyon, Payson and Oak Creek. Prescott could get up to 2 ½ inches of rain.
The Arizona Department of Transportation has sent some snow plow drivers from Tucson to Flagstaff and Holbrook in anticipation of the snow and asked motorists to give them room to do their jobs.
Weather already was creating problems Friday with motor vehicle offices in Page and Window Rock suspending driving tests for the day, but those areas are expected to see little to now snow this weekend, Pacey said.
The heaviest snow will fall late Sunday through Monday, the National Weather Service said, but the exact amount will depend on the snow level.
"Just a slight change in the snowfall level can make a significant difference in the amount of snowfall an area gets," said meteorologist Cory Mottice.
Roads will be plowed at the Grand Canyon's South Rim, though visiting the eastern edge of the national park could be tricky because the area is more shaded than Grand Canyon Village, said park spokeswoman Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski.
While it's hard to see the canyon when it's snowing and foggy, a break in the weather provides a unique view.
"It's not always the one people want," she said. "But it's its own beautiful scene."