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Snow on saguaros: Desert cities in US Southwest see freeze

Published

PHOENIX (AP) — The weather was flipped Wednesday throughout much of the U.S. West, with snow falling on cactuses in the Arizona desert and Anchorage seeing balmy weather — at least by Alaska standards.

In Phoenix, the overnight low was 30 degrees for the first time in five years and more cold temperatures were expected Thursday. The Tucson area saw as much as 6 inches of snow.

"It was pretty magical," said Jessica Howard, a resident of the Tucson suburb of Vail who took her 8- and 5-year-old children to play in the snow. "My social media feeds are like 100 percent snow pictures right now."

Snow dusted cactuses and mountains in southern Arizona and covered the Grand Canyon in the north.

Elsewhere, the National Weather Service issued a freeze warning in the Nevada county where Las Vegas is located. Snow fell and stuck Tuesday on a desert highway over a mountain just 20 minutes outside Sin City.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, saw heavy snowfall and icy roads that caused many government agencies and schools to close.

The cold weather and snow is "quite uncommon" for the area, said Glenn Lader, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Tucson. Nogales, an Arizona city on the Mexico border, had about 6 inches of snow, he said.

Even Southern California got a bit of the action, with rain expected as part of already cold, windy weather.

Meanwhile, some parts of Alaska rang in the new year with relatively balmy weather for the region that helped melt snow in Anchorage. A change in the jet stream brought warmer air from the south, taking the temperature to 42 degrees on New Year's Day.

It was a nice respite from a winter mix that left 32.6 inches of snow on the ground in Anchorage in December, with most of it falling during the last half of the month.

Colder weather was in the forecast, with high temperatures dropping to the teens or even single digits.

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This story has been corrected to say the temperature hit a high of 42 degrees on New Year's Day in Anchorage.

The Empire Mountains emerge from cloud cover after the second round of winter storms brought snowfall to the surrounding metro Tucson area and southeast Arizona, Jan. 2, 2019, south of Vail, Ariz. (Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star via AP)
Snow partially covers a cactus outside of Tucson near Vail, Ariz., Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2018. Southern Arizona and other parts of the Southwest are seeing unusually cold temperatures as a winter storm moves through the region. (Jessica Howard via AP)
In this Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, photo, tourists look at and take photos of a snow-covered Grand Canyon, in Arizona. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Anna Johnson)
Midway Ice Castles take shape as artisans construct popular winter attraction Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Midway, Utah. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. Artisans have spent the last five weeks growing, harvesting, and hand-placing icicles to create the life-size winter playground. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
This photo provided by Pete Dugan shows snow covered patio furniture in the back yard of a home in Tucson, Ariz. on January 2, 2019. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (Pete Dugan via AP)
Lawrence Otero shovels snow from the driveway of his 92-year-old mother-in-law near West Mesa High School in Albuquerque, N.W., Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)
This Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, photo shows Lookout Studio in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, in Arizona. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Anna Johnson)
In this Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, photo, snow covers the Grand Canyon, in Arizona. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Anna Johnson)
Midway Ice Castles take shape as artisans construct popular winter attraction Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Midway, Utah. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Midway Ice Castles take shape as artisans construct popular winter attraction Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Midway, Utah. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Midway Ice Castles take shape as artisans construct popular winter attraction Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Midway, Utah. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Birdwatchers wear jackets at the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Alameda, Calif. San Francisco skyline is seen in background.  Snow is falling on cacti in southern Arizona, while Anchorage is seeing balmy weather - at least by Alaska standards. The weather appears to be flipped throughout much of the West. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Midway Ice Castles take shape as artisans construct popular winter attraction Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Midway, Utah. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Midway Ice Castles take shape as artisans construct popular winter attraction Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Midway, Utah. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
"It's the first time we've seen snow the desert," says Mayra Vasquez who brought Valeria Luzania, 11, and MarcoDario Luzania, 8, to Saguaro National Park East on January 02, 2019. The kids built a snowman and the trio took a selfie with their creation. Parts of the Old Pueblo woke up to snow on New Year's Day, followed by more snow Wednesday morning. (Mamta Popat /Arizona Daily Star via AP)
Lawrence Otero shovels snow from the driveway of his 92-year-old mother-in-law near West Mesa High School in Albuquerque, N.W., Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)
Lawrence Otero shovels snow from the driveway of his 92-year-old mother-in-law near West Mesa High School in Albuquerque, N.W., Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)
In this Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, photo, tourists look at and take photos of a snow-covered Grand Canyon, in Arizona. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Anna Johnson)
In this Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, photo, tourists look at and take photos of a snow-covered Grand Canyon, in Arizona. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Anna Johnson)
Midway Ice Castles take shape as artisans construct popular winter attraction Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Midway, Utah. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Midway Ice Castles take shape as artisans construct popular winter attraction Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Midway, Utah. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Midway Ice Castles take shape as artisans construct popular winter attraction Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Midway, Utah. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Midway Ice Castles take shape as artisans construct popular winter attraction Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Midway, Utah. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Snow partially covers a cactus outside of Tucson near Vail, Ariz., Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2018. Southern Arizona and other parts of the Southwest are seeing unusually cold temperatures as a winter storm moves through the region. (Jessica Howard via AP)
Snow partially covers a cactus outside of Tucson near Vail, Ariz., Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2018. Southern Arizona and other parts of the Southwest are seeing unusually cold temperatures as a winter storm moves through the region. (Jessica Howard via AP)
Birdwatchers wear jackets at the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Alameda, Calif. San Francisco skyline is seen in background.  Snow is falling on cacti in southern Arizona, while Anchorage is seeing balmy weather - at least by Alaska standards. The weather appears to be flipped throughout much of the West. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Birdwatchers wear jackets at the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Alameda, Calif. San Francisco skyline is seen in background. Snow is falling on cacti in southern Arizona, while Anchorage is seeing balmy weather - at least by Alaska standards. The weather appears to be flipped throughout much of the West. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
This Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, photo shows Lookout Studio in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, in Arizona. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Anna Johnson)
This Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, photo shows Lookout Studio in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, in Arizona. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Anna Johnson)
Midway Ice Castles take shape as artisans construct popular winter attraction Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Midway, Utah. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. Artisans have spent the last five weeks growing, harvesting, and hand-placing icicles to create the life-size winter playground. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Midway Ice Castles take shape as artisans construct popular winter attraction Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Midway, Utah. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. Artisans have spent the last five weeks growing, harvesting, and hand-placing icicles to create the life-size winter playground. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
This photo provided by Pete Dugan shows snow covered patio furniture in the back yard of a home in Tucson, Ariz. on January 2, 2019. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (Pete Dugan via AP)
This photo provided by Pete Dugan shows snow covered patio furniture in the back yard of a home in Tucson, Ariz. on January 2, 2019. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (Pete Dugan via AP)
The Empire Mountains emerge from cloud cover after the second round of winter storms brought snowfall to the surrounding metro Tucson area and southeast Arizona, Jan. 2, 2019, south of Vail, Ariz. (Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star via AP)
The Empire Mountains emerge from cloud cover after the second round of winter storms brought snowfall to the surrounding metro Tucson area and southeast Arizona, Jan. 2, 2019, south of Vail, Ariz. (Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star via AP)
In this Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, photo, snow covers the Grand Canyon, in Arizona. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Anna Johnson)
In this Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, photo, snow covers the Grand Canyon, in Arizona. A winter storm has covered cactus with snow in parts of the American Southwest as temperatures in the desert fall below those of Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Anna Johnson)