GCNP — Since winters have been fairly mild the past few years, when a big-time snowstorm hit Grand Canyon last weekend, it had residents trying to remember just when the last significant storm hit.
Although there were references to storms as far back as 1968 and 1979, most compared the most recent snowfall to the storm of March 1996.
Grand Canyon resident Jim Strating shovels snow in his driveway. Strating said it was the most snow he’d seen while living here.
"We had about 31 or 32 inches," remembers Greg Walker, local resident who works at Delaware North. "The roads were all closed. I remember the deli (at the general store) being packed with people seeing when it would let up."
This last storm began Friday with light snowfall in Grand Canyon Village beginning around 7 p.m. By morning, many were shocked to see how much of the white stuff was on the ground.
"It’s a big one," resident Sally Wahler said. "But it’s really a light snow. The kids haven’t been sledding or tubing in a year or two so they’re going to go out and do that."
Most comments from locals echoed those — it was a lot of snow, but it was needed.
"I've never seen this much snow before," resident Jim Strating said while clearing out his driveway in Pinon Park.
Grand Canyon National Park Airport was closed Friday while plowing crews remained busy. At about 1 p.m. Friday, airport officials said an estimated 21 inches had fallen. Unofficial estimates showed snowfall in the village varying from 16 to 18 inches.
Arizona Public Service’s Don Keil said he encountered no problems whatsoever Friday during the first big hit. The only electrical problems the company had encountered, Keil said, was down in Ash Fork.
"It’s been about four years since we’ve had a storm like this," said Keil, another longtime resident. "About 10 years before that, we used to get this every year. I think we need that again."
The National Park Service closed East Rim Drive for a period during the storm because of the heavy snowfall. Reports on the possible number of weather-related accidents was not available.
School was out Friday because of the four-day schedule and Monday because of Martin Luther King Day, so classes were not effected.
Phantom basketball games scheduled for Friday at Fredonia were postponed. After the weather cleared up late Friday and Saturday, games were on at home vs. Ash Fork.
The storm four years ago occurred during the last week of March. Longtime residents remembers other big storms.
"We had some in 1979 ... we had tons like in January or February," said Judy Walker, who has lived at Grand Canyon all her life. "And there was another time, when I was 6 or 7, that we had a big storm. But this is so cool. This hasn't happened in a really long time."
The most recent storm was not as damaging as others. High winds and subzero temperatures did not accompany the snowfall, so there were no iced-over branches of trees causing damange. In past storms, falling branches and trees caused extensive damage.
Although some forecasts were predicting more snow coming, it did not materialize by Monday. High temperatures over the weekend on the South Rim were in the upper 30s range. An extended forecast by the National Weather Service predicted a chance of more snow this week.