January 22, 2022

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Just Do Travel

Latest weather, news for Christmas weekend

10 min read

Significantly more Americans are expected to travel this holiday season than last year. 

More than 109 million people will travel 50 miles or more between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, according to AAA’s annual travel forecast. That is almost 34% more than in 2020.

Check here for the latest updates on traffic, crashes, weather, gas prices and airport conditions you might encounter this holiday weekend. 

Follow holiday weekend coverage by Republic reporters here.

Travel woes continued Monday at airports throughout the country, including at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, as a new round of flight cancellations and delays affected passengers nationwide.

The website FlightAware has logged 4,074 delays on flights to/from and within the United States, as well as 1,122 cancellations as of Monday afternoon. 

Locally, FlightAware has recorded 18 cancellations and 101 delays on flights heading out of Sky Harbor, and 18 cancellations and 94 delays on flights arriving at Sky Harbor. 

American Airlines, which has one of the largest operations at Sky Harbor, accounted for 12 cancellations out of 221 flights scheduled to depart from Phoenix, the airline told The Arizona Republic. That is four more than the eight flight cancellations registered on Sunday. 

American Airlines also had 32 delayed flights as of Monday afternoon. But the airline said about 70% of its flights had left on time, and the majority of delays were for 15 minutes or less.

“American’s operation has been running smoothly, unfortunately a number of COVID-related sick calls led us to make the difficult decision to precancel some flights system-wide scheduled for today,” said Derek Walls, a spokesperson for American Airlines, via email.

“We proactively notified affected customers yesterday, and are working hard to rebook them quickly,” he added. We never want to disappoint our customers and apologize for any disruptions to their holiday travel plans.”

A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines, which also maintains a large presence at Sky Harbor, told The Arizona Republic they had canceled 67 out of 3,600 scheduled flights on Monday because of weather conditions in certain parts of the U.S.

Sky Harbor officials encouraged travelers to check their flight status online and arrive at least two hours beforehand for domestic flights. The airport maintains a list of delayed and canceled flights HERE.

— Rafael Carranza

Phoenix will remain under the influence of an unsettled weather pattern into the next week as cool, cloudy, rainy, and snowy weather accompanies the Valley in the new year. 

Cooler temperatures are expected to persist throughout the week ranging from highs reaching almost 60 degrees on Tuesday and lows in the 30s on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service Phoenix forecast. 

However, most of the precipitation will be localized over the high terrain in central Arizona over multiple days over the next week, according to the NWS Phoenix forecast. 

Though heavy rainfall is also expected later in the week, rain and light snow will make its first appearance in east Phoenix Tuesday with chances of rain between 70-80% in the evening, said Phoenix NWS meteorologist James Sawtelle. 

As a stronger weather system rolls in on Friday, rain showers are expected to start on Friday and continue into early Saturday, Sawtelle said.

Since isolated showers are sure to make an appearance so does the potential for isolated flooding, Sawtelle said. Particularly in areas with burn scars, underpasses, dry washes, and low water crossings.

A day after Christmas, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was still seeing flight delays and cancellations that have affected travelers in airports across the country since Christmas Eve.

According to flight tracking site FlightAware, over 5,392 flights within, into, or out of the United States had been delayed and 1,283 had been cancelled as of Sunday evening. 

Of those, 103 delays, comprising 17% of flights, and 19 cancellations, comprising just 3% of flights, were out of Sky Harbor. Another 126 delays and 15 cancellations were for flights heading to Sky Harbor, according to FlightAware. 

The website’s “MiseryMap” showed Sky Harbor rose to be the 10th most “miserable” American airport on Sunday evening. At the top of the list was Denver International Airport, with more than 30% of its departing and arriving flights delayed, followed by Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where 24% of flights had been cancelled. 

The airport experiencing the highest percentage of cancellations globally was Bellingham International Airport in Washington, where 73% of outgoing and 84% of incoming flights were cancelled on Sunday, according to FlightAware. 

Southwest, Delta and SkyWest each had delayed about a quarter of their flights on Sunday, according to FlightAware. 

— Kaila White

Arizonans saw record rainfall this Christmas Eve. Folks in the Valley saw a record total of 1 inch of rain on Friday according to the National Weather Service in Phoenix. 

According to the Weather Service, temperatures in the Valley will remain below normal for the next several days. The normal is 65 to 66 degrees, but Phoenix is expected to hit just 56 degrees midweek. There is a slight chance of rain this week with the best chance for rain being Tuesday, according to a tweet from the Weather Service.

— Steven Hernandez

4:20 p.m. Saturday: Flood warning in effect

The National Weather Service in Phoenix issued a flood warning Saturday afternoon for some parts of the Phoenix area.

The warning is in effect until 11 a.m. Sunday.

The weather service said that chances of rain for Saturday night could increase to 40%. There is a 40% chance of rain during the daytime on Sunday, going down to 30% Sunday night.

— Tara Kavaler

After a record-shattering rainfall on Friday night, the National Weather Service in Phoenix predicts a high temperature of 65 degrees for Phoenix Christmas Day, with a 10% percent chance of rain during the day.

Saturday’s overnight low is 52 degrees, with the chance of precipitation increasing to 40%.

According to the weather NWS Phoenix, the high temperature for Sunday is projected to be 63 degrees, followed by low temperatures Sunday night into Monday morning of 47 degrees. The high Monday is predicted to be 58 degrees, with a low of 46 that night into Tuesday morning. The high Tuesday is 56.

While 65 degrees is the average high for Phoenix on Christmas Day, the city shattered rain records on Christmas Eve. Phoenix recorded at least 1 inch of rain, with an average rainfall of 1.37 inches in the Valley. This not only broke a 77-year record set in 1944 of .93 inch, but also marked the 11th time since temperatures were logged in mid-1890 that Arizona has seen an inch or more of rain in December. Furthermore, it was the 9th rainiest day ever since 1990. 

According to Austin Jamison, a meteorologist at the NWS in Phoenix, people should prepare for rain in the near future. “Be aware of the unsettled weather over the next week. Don’t be surprised to encounter rains on multiple days over the next seven days,” he told The Arizona Republic.

There is a 40% chance of rain during the daytime on Sunday, going down to 30% Sunday night. On Monday, there is a 50% chance of rain during the day, which goes up to 80% that night. For Tuesday, there is 70% percent chance of rain, falling to 40% that night. The chance of rain is 30% Wednesday, with the chances for more wet weather staying around the same until Friday.

Jamison explained that when discussing the percent chance of precipitation, it means the probability of getting 1/100th inch of rain or more. He further elucidated that the possibility of rain during the day or night does not necessarily encompass the entirety of the time period, but rather at some point during the 12-hour measurable frame.

Tara Kavaler

Heavy snow and rain that fell across the state Friday are expected to gradually decrease through the evening, but rebound again on Saturday night into Sunday. 

According to a Friday afternoon update from the National Weather Service, rain and snowfall amounts will diminish overnight, with only a few scattered showers expected for Saturday. 

The weather service advised travelers to remain aware of roads that might continue to be impassable Saturday from widespread heavy rain on Friday. 

Flood warnings for creeks below the Mogollon Rim will be in place through 11 p.m. Friday, as well as a storm warning for the Kaibab Plateau including the Jacob Lake area, and a winter weather advisory for parts of the Navajo Nation above 7,500 feet elevation. 

The weather service also expects another round of heavy snow and rain to come on Saturday night into Sunday morning. Black ice on elevated roads as well as slick and snow-covered roads are possible hazards for Sunday. 

— Laura Daniella Sepulveda

 2:30 p.m. Friday: Six-vehicle crash closes part of State Route 51 

A six-vehicle crash shut down the northbound State Route 51 at Highland Avenue on Friday afternoon, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said.

A DPS trooper was “struck by debris or a passing vehicle” while investigating the crash but did not report any injuries, the Department said.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the crash or when the northbound lanes of the freeway would reopen.

— BrieAnna J. Frank

A stretch of State Route 260 along the Mogollon Rim reopened after being closed Friday morning because of “extreme weather conditions,” the Arizona Department of Transportation said.

The highway was closed between milepost 302 near Heber-Overgaard and milepost 277 near Kohls Ranch at around 10:30 a.m. ADOT’s traffic cameras showed snow covering the road in both directions.

The highway was reopened by 2 p.m.

— BrieAnna J. Frank

Interstate 17 in Black Canyon City was back open on Friday after two crashes closed all southbound lanes earlier in the morning.

The incident happened at milepost 241, the Arizona Department of Transportation said in a tweet at 8:15 a.m. 

The Arizona Department of Public Safety said there were two single-vehicle crashes at the site. One caused an injury, though its extent wasn’t immediately clear. The other was a non-injury crash, the department said.

The roadway was back open as of 9 a.m.

— BrieAnna J. Frank

A crash is blocking multiple lanes on southbound State Route 51 near Northern Avenue in Phoenix, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. The crash occurred shortly after 1:15 p.m.

A separate collision was reported on southbound SR 51 in the area of Shea Boulevard, ADOT reported on its website. The crash happened about 1:20 p.m.

Details about the crashes were not immediately available.

— Mike Cruz

Travelers making their way through the busy Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport will find brief security wait times Thursday morning.

Security wait times are 16 minutes or less in terminals 3 and 4 as of 10 a.m. Thursday, according to airport officials.

“We are busy today, and will also be busy after the Christmas holidays (next week),” airport spokesperson Heather Shelbrack said in an email. “Travelers are encouraged to give themselves extra time and arrive early.”

On Friday, parts of the Valley are expected to be drenched with rainfall from a winter storm which can add another challenge to air travel.

Shelbrack said it was a good idea for travelers to check their flight status with their airline before coming to the airport. “In addition to potential weather here, weather elsewhere in the country could cause impacts,” she said.  

Those folks picking up travelers should also check the flight status for any delays before they come to the airport, she said.

Here are more travel tips from Sky Harbor Airport officials: https://www.skyharbor.com/beforetraveling/travel-tips

— Mike Cruz

9 a.m. Thursday: No full closures on state highways, ADOT says

No full closures are scheduled on state highways during and between the Christmas and New Year’s Day weekends, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The decision allows traffic to keep moving during the holiday travel season, the agency said in a news release.

Some construction and maintenance work may take place at times through the end of the year; however, ADOT and its contractors will avoid full closures on state highways during the holidays.

If you are traveling on Arizona highways for the holidays, consider these tips from ADOT:

  • Check your vehicle tire pressure, engine fluid levels and windshield wipers.
  • Never drive while impaired.
  • Allow extra travel time and be prepared to slow down in existing work zones.
  • Be prepared for winter weather in the high country. Carry an emergency kit in the vehicle.
  • Expect the unexpected. Carry extra supplies, such as drinking water, in case of an unscheduled closure.
  • Rest before traveling. Fatigue is a serious highway safety risk.
  • Buckle up and obey speed limits.

Real-time highway conditions are available at az511.gov, by calling 511 and through ADOT’s Twitter feed, @ArizonaDOT.

— Mike Cruz

Parts of the Valley are forecast to be doused with rainfall in the days leading up to Christmas.

Jaret Rogers, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told The Arizona Republic on Wednesday that a storm system making its way to the Valley could bring 0.5 to 1 inch of rain between Thursday and Saturday.

Rogers said some areas could receive rain as early as Thursday evening with the highest chance of rainfall being throughout Friday in the northern and eastern parts of the Valley. He said there’s a chance for some additional precipitation on Christmas morning, but that the brunt of the storm will likely have passed by then.

Rogers said highs will dip into the low 60s and high 50s in the Valley.

Farther north, Flagstaff is projected to receive between 2 and 3 inches of predominantly rain and some snow, and slightly lower figures in the surrounding areas. The weather service expects Flagstaff to receive between 2 and 4 inches of snow between Christmas and Dec. 29.

Rogers said those traveling over the holidays should slow down and be extra cautious in areas with rain or snow. He also recommended people check weather advisories if traveling in other states to the west.

“There’s potential for a lot of snow even in the other parts of the Western United States,” Rogers said.

— Perry Vandell 

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