BELLEMONT, Ariz. — A winter storm pummeled the western United States on Thursday with fierce wind gusts, heavy rain and up to 2 feet of snow, closing freeways, forcing people from their homes in a California town and dumping a snowy mix of precipitation on the edges of Phoenix.
Nevada was blasted with frigid winds, an area of western Washington saw whiteout conditions, and strong winds created snow drifts across mountainous areas of Arizona.
Snow and ice forced an hours-long closure of Interstates 40 and 17, the two major thoroughfares in northern Arizona, stranding motorists south of Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. People in Phoenix were stunned at the sight of snow-type flurries that the National Weather Service said were a combination of hail and snow that melts before it hits the ground.
Meanwhile, southwestern New Mexico was being hit with blizzard conditions that were forecast to continue through midnight Thursday. Winds of up to 65 mph, heavy snow and rapidly falling temperatures made travel difficult, if not impossible, forecasters said.
Snow also forced California transportation officials to close Interstate 15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, where winds were gusting to more than 40 mph. The freeway eventually reopened.