Snowfall on S.R. 87 near Long Valley in northern Arizona, Oct. 7, 2018.
© Arizona Department of Transportation
Snowfall on S.R. 87 near Long Valley in northern Arizona, Oct. 7, 2018.
We might be in the first week of October, but northern Arizona is already looking a lot like winter.

Residents in and around Flagstaff woke up to the first snowfall of the season, with the Arizona Snowbowl topping the list at about 6 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Flagstaff.

"Flagstaff typically sees snowfall in the first couple weeks in November, so seeing snow this early is a bit unusual," said Megan Taylor, a meteorologist at the NWS in Flagstaff.

Other areas in northern Arizona also saw snow.


Places like Show Low received two inches while Bellemont got about an inch.


The last time northern Arizona saw snow in October was in 2013 when 0.6 inches fell near Flagstaff, Taylor said, chalking the Sunday morning storm up to a cold system that dropped in from the north and ushered in a wave of cold air and precipitation.

While unusual, it wasn't quite a record.

The earliest measured snowfall in Flagstaff dates to Sept. 19, 1965, when 2 inches fell in the city, the NWS said.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms remain in the forecast in northern Arizona, and some areas could see an additional dusting of snow by Monday morning.

What snow did fall might not stick around long — temperatures are forecast to rebound into the 50s Tuesday with clear skies returning by midweek.

Flagstaff is easily the snowiest big city in Arizona.

It averages 101.7 inches of snow per year, according to NWS statistics. Flagstaff's snowiest winter was from 1972 to 1973 when it recorded 210 inches.

No other metropolitan area in the state comes close to those numbers. Most of the big cities are in the lower elevations where snow is rare.

Phoenix, for example, hasn't had measurable snow since Dec. 22, 1990. The record for snow accumulation in Phoenix is an inch, most recently on Jan. 22, 1937. Some Phoenix-area cities, such as Cave Creek, are at slightly higher elevations and occasionally get a dusting.

The early season snow up north was encouraging for winter lovers.

But don't get too excited.

The Climate Prediction Center's outlook for this winter calls for above-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation for Arizona. That could change, as the CPC regularly updates its outlooks to reflect evolving conditions.

For example, whether or not El Niño conditions materialize (there is currently a 70 percent chance for this winter) and the strength of those conditions could play a role in our winter weather. During El Niño winters, southern states (including Arizona) tend to have warmer, wetter conditions.