A Crippling Snowstorm in Tucson Arizona

A Little Snow Goes a LONG Way in Tucson

January 28,2007

Having grown up in Rochester, New York and gone to college in Superior, Wisconsin, snow and cold weather are nothing new to me.

However, I have lived in Tucson, Arizona for the past 20+ years and snow is rare here. When I was in college in Superior we once had snowstorm one night in May. While it was a wet snow that began melting at daybreak and was gone by late afternoon. However, the storm dumped enough snow to require the shoveling of walks that morning.

We didn't get a lot of snow, by Superior's standards, and it melted within a couple of days but I know it was many times the total amount of snow that has fallen on Tucson since I moved here in 1983.

I give this as perspective so that readers living a few degrees of latitude north of Tucson will not laugh, too hard, at the pictures I present below of the January 22, 2007 storm that closed many schools and places of work here.


For additional perspective consider this:

Prior to the recent, near crippling, storm of 2007 the next most recent storm that dumped enough snow on the ground to measure was on January 30, 2002 when we were inundated with six-tenths of an inch (1.524 centimeters) of snow.

That was the big one of '02 and, having had no snow since then, we were not exactly prepared for the even bigger storm of '07.

Here is my account of the storm as I recorded it with my camera.

Locations Where I have Lived With Snow

show route and directions
A markerRochester, NY -
Rochester, NY, USA
[get directions]

Rochester, NY where I grew up. This is in the snow belt of New York State and its winters are generally white.

B markerSuperior, Wisconsin -
Superior, WI, USA
[get directions]

Superior, WI where I spent 4 years in college. The natives may disagree, but my opinion is that it has 9 months of winter & 3 months of cool weat

C markerTucson, AZ -
Tucson, AZ, USA
[get directions]

Tucson has two seasons - a hot summer and a warm Spring/Fall during which a fraction of an inch of snow falls every decade or so.

Frost on the roofs of Tucson houses following an exceptionally cold night.
Frost on the roofs of Tucson houses following an exceptionally cold night. | Source
When the thermometer in Tucson, AZ shows 36 degrees it is COLD!
When the thermometer in Tucson, AZ shows 36 degrees it is COLD! | Source

Taking in the Sights

Having checked out the backyard, I moved to the front of the house. I enjoyed the crisp, cool air and, with the sunshine and clear sky, it looked to be a good day.

The frost covered roofs on the homes along the street brought back memories of the snow covered roofs of my childhood up north.

Hey, we make do with what we have. Maybe frost covered roofs are not quite as impressive as snow-covered roofs. But then, pushing the button on the garage door opener and driving out without first spending two hours shoveling the snow out of the driveway kind of balances things out.

Thinking about shoveling snow always reminds me of the times when my Father was still alive and he and my Mother would always come to Tucson for a visit in February when a cold day was when the temperature dropped below 70 degrees.

My Father always made sure to avoid winter in Tucson (which usually occurs some time in January and a severe winter can last up to a week (that is a long time to have to endure 60 degreee weather).

Every afternoon while he was here, my Father would take the small TV out to the patio, sit in the sun and turn the news to watch the stories showing people back home in Rochester digging out from the latest snowstorm.

Finding frost on roof and windows of car on a winter morning is common in Milwaukee but NOT in Tucson.
Finding frost on roof and windows of car on a winter morning is common in Milwaukee but NOT in Tucson. | Source
Every home in our Tucson neighborhood had frost on the roof that frigid  January morning.
Every home in our Tucson neighborhood had frost on the roof that frigid January morning. | Source

Clearing Frost off a Car Windshield With a Credit Card

Our garage holds two cars - my wife's and mine. The first child home who doesn't mind being awaken early to move their car, parks in the driveway while the other two have to find an empty parking spot in the community.

Exposed to the elements, like the roofs of homes, cars parked outside were also covered with frost that morning.

How, asked my son, who had never encountered frost on a car window before, do we clear the windows?

In my most philosophical of tones, I replied The view of frost on rooftops in the morning. Priceless! For everything else, there is MasterCard.

He promptly went into the house to seek a less philosophical answer from his Mother. But, seriously, a MasterCard, or any plastic credit card for that matter, is very effective at scraping frost from car windows.

Of course it is not the best thing for the card so, if you live in an area that has real winter you should use the MasterCard to purchase a real scraper but, when you only need to scrape frost off of windows once every decade or so, the card works fine.

While the morning started out sunny, the clouds began rolling in during the afternoon and the temperature began dropping. As evening approached the temperature continued to drop and a light rain began falling.

After doing some late afternoon grocery shopping, I pulled into the parking lot of the Wal-Mart about a mile SE of our home and the light rain suddenly turned into a light snow. It wasn't much of a snow.

However, as I entered the store I overheard a couple of children expressing their thrill over the snow (it was probably the first time it snowed in their lives) and I laughed as one expressed the hope that the schools would be closed in the morning. Sure kid! I thought to myself.

Little did I know how prophetic that child's wish was.

ICE - the big problem

Settling in with the heat on and a good movie I was not too concerned with the drizzling rain outside (it never snowed in our neighborhood) figuring it would end soon.

However, I became a little concerned when by older son (who writes under the name of Sith Penguin on HubPages) came home a little later with pictures of the snow he had taken with his cell phone on the way home from work which is about 5 miles east of where we live.

While not a big storm by standards of any place but Tucson, any snow and ice on the roads here is dangerous, first because we have no salt to put on the roads, and, second, because most people in town have no experience driving in snow.

Further, my wife and daughter, each of whom has only two years of driving experience and no experience with driving in snow and ice, both worked in the same general area as Sith Penguin and wouldn't be home until later in the evening.

Fortunately, they did make it home safely and we all went to bed.

I awoke to the spectacular scenes, shown above, of snow on the mountains but no snow, only frost, on the ground in the neighborhood.

A dove shivers on a cold winter morning in Tucson Arizona.
A dove shivers on a cold winter morning in Tucson Arizona. | Source
Snow covered Catalina Mountains following a night time winter snow storm in Tucson, AZ
Snow covered Catalina Mountains following a nighttime winter snow storm in Tucson, AZ | Source
Snow covered Santa Catalina Mountains form a beautiful winter scene in Tucson, Arizona
Snow covered Santa Catalina Mountains form a beautiful winter scene in Tucson, Arizona | Source
Traffic was light on Interstate 10 in Tucson as I drove to work following a rare January nighttime snow storm
Traffic was light on Interstate 10 in Tucson as I drove to work following a rare January nighttime snow storm | Source
As I headed south on Interstate 19 it was obvious that the south side of Tucson had received more snow that January night.
As I headed south on Interstate 19 it was obvious that the south side of Tucson had received more snow that January night. | Source
Cacti silhouetted against the snow covered Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson Arizona.
Cacti silhouetted against the snow covered Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson Arizona. | Source
Early morning clouds lifting to reveal snow covered Santa Catalina Mountains on a cold January morning in Tucson
Early morning clouds lifting to reveal snow covered Santa Catalina Mountains on a cold January morning in Tucson | Source
Snow covered Catalina Mountains following a rare January snow storm in Tucson Arizona
Snow covered Catalina Mountains following a rare January snow storm in Tucson Arizona | Source
Exiting at Irvington Rd., about 20 miles south of where we live, it became clear that there had been a significant snowfall in Tucson the night before
Exiting at Irvington Rd., about 20 miles south of where we live, it became clear that there had been a significant snowfall in Tucson the night before | Source
Turning on to S. Calle Santa Cruz it was clear that this part of Tucson had been hard hit by the snow storm.  But it was beautiful.
Turning on to S. Calle Santa Cruz it was clear that this part of Tucson had been hard hit by the snow storm. But it was beautiful. | Source
Snow covered athletic field and recreation center on the campus where I work in Tucson.
Snow covered athletic field and recreation center on the campus where I work in Tucson. | Source
This was great - I got to work right on time and had my choice any spot in the parking lot following the unusual snowstorm in Tucson.
This was great - I got to work right on time and had my choice any spot in the parking lot following the unusual snowstorm in Tucson. | Source
The athletic center sits deserted in the middle of snow covered desert.  No work-out for me today.
The athletic center sits deserted in the middle of snow covered desert. No work-out for me today. | Source
I wasn't the only one to get to work on time.  A couple of others made it as well including the hearty soul in the picture trudging through the snow to her office.
I wasn't the only one to get to work on time. A couple of others made it as well including the hearty soul in the picture trudging through the snow to her office. | Source
Up north they have snow days - in Tucson we have snow hours.  We don't close down due to snow, we simply open later.
Up north they have snow days - in Tucson we have snow hours. We don't close down due to snow, we simply open later. | Source
Snow covered vegetation in Tucson.
Snow covered vegetation in Tucson. | Source
Snow on cactus in Tucson.
Snow on cactus in Tucson. | Source
Looking west from campus and across the river toward homes and the not so distant Tucson Mountains all covered with snow.
Looking west from campus and across the river toward homes and the not so distant Tucson Mountains all covered with snow. | Source
I doubt anyone will be eating lunch on the patio today.
I doubt anyone will be eating lunch on the patio today. | Source
Our deserted, snowbound, campus in Tucson.
Our deserted, snowbound, campus in Tucson. | Source

Crisis Over - As Snow Quickly Melts

As with all snowstorms in Tucson, the snow was gone before we knew it. The unusual thing about this storm was that it occurred on a cold night. It was the freezing cold which both preserved the snow for us to view the next morning and caused ice to form on all of the bridges. The snow was no problem, it was the ice on the bridges, which caused them to be shut down, that crippled the city.

On Monday morning we awoke to bridges that were impossible to drive over and one truck to deliver sand to them. Some, like me, were fortunate and did not have to cross an icy bridge so we arrived at work on time. But most found their way blocked at the first bridge.

However, due to the efforts of our sand truck and the late rising sun, the ice was soon cleared from the bridges and all we were left with were stories and pictures of the Great Storm of '07.

Snow removal in Tucson is solar powered.  We wait a couple of hours and the sun quickly melts all snow in the city.
Snow removal in Tucson is solar powered. We wait a couple of hours and the sun quickly melts all snow in the city. | Source

Have you had a day off from work or school due to snow?

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© 2007 Chuck Nugent

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7 comments

Rachelle Williams profile image

Rachelle Williams 4 years ago from Tempe, AZ

I have had plenty of days off from work due to snow, but that was when I lived in North Dakota. I am absolutely loving Arizona!

Great Hub.


almasi profile image

almasi 5 years ago

I was touched by the shivering dove on the fence. Excellent commentry.


Kathy 9 years ago

Seeing snow-covered saguaros is not something you see every day. Thanks for a great retrospective of that day!


bobmnu 9 years ago

You got some good photos, but as one of those who live a few degrees north, near Superior, it almost looks like you got more snow that we did. Into which camp does this belong - those who belleive in Global Warming or those of 20 years ago who were predicting the coming Ice Age. It seems that every few years you hear of some place in the south getting a surprise snow storm that cripples the area for a day. A few years ago it was Alanta that got 2 inches of snow and brought the city to a stand still. You will have fun with your grandchildren in a few years telling them of the "Big Storm" that you survived. Keep the photos for the future.


Chuck profile image

Chuck 9 years ago from Tucson, Arizona Author

Ralph, Jimmy, - thanks for the comments. I think you were here closer to 15 years ago, Ralph. I remember that year as my son was about 5 years old and we were going back to Rochester for Christmas. I had promised him a white Christmas but it rained and the temperature was about 50 - then I looked at the front page of the newspaper and saw a picture of the snow covered palm trees in Tucson. We would have had a white Christmas if we had stayed in Tucson.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 9 years ago

Great pictures. I was in Tucson ten or fifteen years ago I think for Christmas when it snowed quite a bit. But it didn't last long. We took our kids up Mt. Lemon to ski.


jimmythejock profile image

jimmythejock 9 years ago from Scotland

thanks for sharing chuck your pictures are stunning and your commentry is a perfect mix of humor and sarcasm ,i was expecting a foot of snow at least lol ,strange though where i am in Scotland we haven't had any snow to speak of this year it has snowed but in short bursts and it has never laid...jimmy

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