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Storm dusts Tucson with snow, gathers strength as it rolls east

February 21, 2013|By Marisa Gerber
  • Snow covers the driving range as play was suspended during the first round of the World Golf Championships - Accenture Match Play at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz.
Snow covers the driving range as play was suspended during the first round… (Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images )

In most places, hoopla about an official snowfall reading of less than one-tenth of an inch sounds silly. In Tucson, it makes sense.

On Thursday, a day after the Sonoran desert's saguaros got a rare -- albeit thin -- blanket of snow, the winter weather system had gained strength and traveled east to the Midwest where it closed malls, theaters and an airport and was expected to continue east and pummel New England over the weekend.

“This is a very significant winter storm,” said Andrew Orrison, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Although the weather service's Tucson office recorded only a trace amount of snow at the official recording location, local meteorologist Chris Rasmussen told the Los Angeles Times that different parts of the desert city got close to four inches.

“It was definitely a fairly significant event,” Rasmussen said of Wednesday's storm. “I think yesterday will stay in people’s memory banks.”

Because the official location got less than one-tenth of an inch, however, it won't be recorded as a "measurable snowfall." The last time the city officially passed the one-tenth of an inch barrier was when a January 2002 storm dropped more than half an inch.

One group that will definitely remember the snow-in-the-desert experience? Professional golfers.

The PGA tour, which is in Marana, Ariz., this week for the W.G.C.-Accenture Match Play Championship, suspended play late Wednesday and announced it would get a start late Thursday after extra snow through the night brought the total to about 4 inches.

Golfer Rory McIlroy tweeted a picture Wednesday of a snow-covered saguaro with the caption: “Snow coming down heavy again! More like Alaska than Arizona!!”

By Thursday afternoon, the storm had made its way east of the Rocky Mountains and was barreling down on the Midwest, Orrison said in an interview.

Local courts, malls and theaters closed Thursday in Kansas as some parts of the state had already recorded 14 inches, according to a storm summary posted on the National Weather Service’s website.

By Thursday afternoon, Kansas City International Airport in Missouri was temporarily closed and at least 240 flights had been grounded, according to FlightAware.com. Lambert-St. Louis International Airport was still open Thursday afternoon, but more than 180 flights had been canceled, according to the airport's website.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James declared a state of emergency Thursday morning, saying the storm had made removing snow from the Missouri streets difficult. He sent out tweets Thursday afternoon asking people to stay home and saying that police had responded to help at least 30 stranded motorists.

Later he tweeted: “A REAL entrepreneur would figure out how to sell this snow to Arizona and get it off our roads.”

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marisa.gerber@latimes.com

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