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Burns & Gambo

Updated Feb 20, 2013 - 8:49 pm

Winter weather wreaks havoc across Arizona

TUCSON -- A winter storm brought snow to the Tucson area and hail and sleet to the Phoenix metropolitan area Wednesday, disrupting flights, making for slushy rush-hour commutes and creating the rare sight of flurries at a professional golf event in southern Arizona.

The snowstorm in southern Arizona postponed first-round play at the Match Play Championship in Marana, and diverted nine flights bound for Tucson to Phoenix or other airports.

Wintry conditions also wreaked havoc elsewhere in the state, with several classes being canceled in Flagstaff, Bisbee and Show Low.

Officials at Tucson International Airport said planes were being allowed to take off and other flights were cleared to land by early afternoon Wednesday.

Four flights from Denver, two each from Chicago and Dallas, and one from Albuquerque were scheduled to land in Tucson between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m., but were diverted to Phoenix Sky Harbor International or other airports. Two other flights from Tucson to Phoenix were cancelled.

The cold, cloudy morning in Marana first gave way to rain that came down sideways, then snow, forcing officials to suspend play at southern Arizona's premier golf event at about 11 a.m.

The tournament at Dove Mountain, the high desert course about 2,800 feet above sea level, was called off for the day two hours later. Tiger Woods was among the players who had yet to start. About 1˝ inches of snow covered the golf course.

The inclement weather had volunteers, spectators and golfers seeking cover, with some later throwing snowballs at each other. A snowman stood on a green at the practice range.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning in effect until late Wednesday for the Tucson area, with blizzard conditions possible in the mountains.

Meteorologists said up to 3 inches of snow could fall in the Tucson metro area, which had temperatures in the mid-40s.

Meanwhile, Flagstaff public schools and Northern Arizona University were closed Wednesday due to a winter storm that was dropping snow in Arizona's higher elevations and rain elsewhere.

The Show Low School District and Bisbee Unified School District canceled classes Wednesday in anticipation of bad weather.

The snowstorm also postponed the opening of a district office in Flagstaff for U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., and closed U.S. 60 between Superior and Miami in south-central Arizona for several hours.

The Weather Service predicted up to 6 inches of snow in Flagstaff and Prescott, and up to 9 inches in Payson on Wednesday.

The Phoenix metro area had up to 0.75 inch of rain in some parts Wednesday, with areas of Scottsdale getting some hail, sleet or graupel, which is like freezing rain. That made for mushy conditions on freeways during the afternoon rush hour.

In the Desert Mountain area of north Scottsdale, snow stuck to the ground and brought some curious children and parents out to play.

Highs in the Phoenix area reached only the low 50s Wednesday, about 20 degrees below normal for this time of year.

Meanwhile, a search continued in the Superstition Mountains in Apache Junction for a hiker reported missing Tuesday evening after she failed to appear at a trailhead.

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