US Southwest in store for one-two punch of winter storms

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Major storms are expected to hit the U.S. Southwest over the holiday weekend, dumping heavy snow in the highest elevations and rain in the deserts, along with wind that could knock out power and topple trees, weather forecasters said.

The National Weather Service said Flagstaff and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona could get up to 2 feet (61 centimeters) of snow in two rounds of storms. Much higher amounts were expected in parts of northern Nevada. Mountainous areas west of Las Vegas and north-central New Mexico also will see heavy snow.

The first storm is forecast to hit Saturday night into Sunday, with a lull before the next one Monday on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Entrance fees at the Grand Canyon and other national parks are waived on Monday, but park officials say visitors might not be able to see into the depths of the canyon because of the storms. Trails will be snow-packed and icy.

Some ski resorts in the region, including one outside of Las Vegas, already required chains or snow tires.

The storm will be felt across much of the region, though some places will see only a dusting of snow. Strong winds are expected to accompany the storms, sending snow swirling and limiting visibility.

Rain is expected in lower elevations.

Authorities are discouraging people from traveling but say to be prepared with warm clothes, water, emergency kits and other supplies if they must head out.

The weather service in Flagstaff, a popular destination for snow play, advised people to stay home through the weekend.

“It’ll be messy in the High Country & we want everyone to enjoy their holiday weekend,” it tweeted Saturday. “Think about changing your travel plans!”

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