Eintime Conversion for education and research 10-15-2009 @ 12:57:28
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Las Vegas, Spokane set snowfall records

From wire reports

Flights resumed in and out of Las Vegas, but schools and highways were closed Thursday after a record-setting snowfall coated marquees on the Strip, weighed down palm trees and blanketed surrounding mountain areas.

The city awoke to clear weather after a storm that left 3.6 inches at McCarran International Airport. It was the biggest December snowfall on record there, and the worst for any month since a 71/2-inch accumulation in January 1979, forecasters said.

The storm Wednesday and early Thursday also dumped snow on rain on much of southern California and parts of Nevada outside Las Vegas and northern Arizona.

SHARE YOUR STORY: Describe your first snow day of the season

The National Weather Service measured 3.6 inches of snow overnight at Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport, and meteorologist Jerome Jacques said about 2 inches was left before dawn on the ground near the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign.

"Snow is not unknown in the Las Vegas valley. On average we get 1/2 inch of snow a year," Jacques said. "But this amount made it a significant storm. We haven't had this amount of snow since 1979."

The weather service recorded 7.5 inches of snow at McCarran on Jan. 30-31, 1979.

The snow Wednesday prompted the cancellation of all flights in and out of Vegas. Visitors parked and posed for pictures wearing hooded jackets.

Other parts of Nevada were forecast to receive as much as 8 inches of snow in the second winter storm this week to drop snow on the desert city. Snowfall is common in nearby mountains hills, but not on the Strip or surrounding neighborhoods.

Elsewhere, snow shut Interstate 15 over 4,190-foot Cajon Pass east of Los Angeles. By early Thursday, just a single lane on the southbound side was open, as officers escorted a small stream of drivers through the pass.

Interstate 5, a major trucking and travel route connecting Southern California with the Central Valley and Northern California was shut down over 4,144-foot Tejon Pass, and roads through the San Gabriel Mountains connecting metropolitan Los Angeles to the commuter suburbs of Palmdale and Lancaster in the high desert to the north also were closed.

An overflowing river on the U.S.-Mexico border Wednesday led to the evacuation of nearly two dozen people and rescues of about 50 horses.

Snow also fell across much of Washington state on Wednesday, with Spokane, in the northeast part of the state, declaring a snow emergency and vowing that its snowplows would be working nonstop until the streets were clear.

The National Weather Service says 17 inches of snow has been recorded at Spokane International Airport in the 24-hours that ended at 4 a.m. Thursday. That's four inches more than the record of 13 inches set in 1984.

Snow continued to fall heavily in the Spokane area Thursday morning, so the amount of snow will increase.

The city declared a "Condition Red" snow emergency, meaning crews will work 24 hours a day, seven days a week until they complete a full city plow.

The storm dumped as much as 4 feet of snow at Big Bear in the San Bernardino Mountains, said James Oh, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in San Diego.

Schools were closed Thursday, many of them for the fourth straight day, in several high desert and mountain districts.

And soldiers at Fort Irwin near Barstow were unable to deploy to Iraq Wednesday as planned because of the snowy conditions.

Calen Weiss, 19, of Tarzana, his brother and two friends wanted to go snowboarding at Big Bear but instead got stuck on I-15 in Cajon Pass for an hour as visibility fell to about 40 yards.

"It looks like Whoville, all snowy, but with less joy and more extreme misery," he said by phone from the Summit Inn.

Heavy rain also fell in some parts of Southern California through the day.

Near the California-Mexico border, San Diego firefighters and lifeguards evacuated 21 people along the overflowing Tijuana River, said spokesman Maurice Luque. They included 12 to 15 people who were on high ground outside a home, surrounded by up to 4 feet of water.

Five people were taken out by helicopter, while others were escorted in Border Patrol all-terrain vehicles, Luque said. Three men were taken to a hospital for treatment of hypothermia.

About 50 horses also were evacuated, but three others drowned and one was euthanized after tripping on barbed wire, Luque said.

In the Santa Clarita area north of Los Angeles, a wind gust caused a helicopter to crash, killing an electrical worker on the ground and leaving the pilot with minor injuries, county fire Inspector Frank Garrido said.

Even Malibu got a dusting of snow, as the usually balmy city saw a half-inch in the afternoon.

"It's kind of cool if you think about it, said Craig Levy, director of a juvenile detention camp. "It's kind of unusual to see snow in Malibu."

A winter storm warning for areas above 5,000 feet remained in effect until noon across northern Arizona, according to the National Weather Service. In southeastern Arizona, a winter storm warning is in effect through 5 p.m.

Snow was widespread in the state's higher elevations, with 24-hour accumulations reaching 10 inches in Flagstaff by daybreak. The weather service said another two to three inches is expected before the storm begins clearing at midday.

The weather service said between 6 and 10 inches could pile up in the Graham and Greenlee county mountains in southeastern Arizona.

In Phoenix, scattered storm clouds still hung around, but much of the sky was crystal clear after a rainy night.

Road crews were plowing major highways in northern Arizona, but one to three inches of packed snow and ice remained on the roads and motorists should drive very slowly, Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Rod Wigman said.

Besides Flagstaff, Wigman said roads were snowpacked in Page, Gap, Fredonia, Williams and Tuba City. Interstate 17 is snowpacked for 30 miles south of Flagstaff and Interstate 40 was snowpacked from Ash Fork west of Williams to Two Guns 20 miles east of Flagstaff.

Road crews should make quick work of the packed snow and ice once the sun reappears, Wigman said. That could happen by early afternoon.

Snow is expected across broad swaths of Idaho in coming days, as frigid storms roll across the region.

In Boise, up to an inch of snow could accumulate in the valleys Thursday, with heavier snow expected during the evening, according to the National Weather Service.

The central mountains — including ski resort towns like McCall, Donnelly and Sun Valley — are due to be hit by even more robust snowfall, which is good news for skiers.

Up in northern Idaho, snow is already falling, with the second phase of a storm cycle depositing nearly a foot around Coeur d'Alene Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

And in Pocatello and Idaho Falls, expect mostly cloudy skies and chilly east winds of up to 21 miles per hour, with snow in the evening likely to pile up to at least an inch.

(Original Len: 7487 Condensed Len: 7635)

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