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Storms dump heavy rain, snow on parts of West

 Louis Swingrover  walks along Sherman Avene in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 during a snow storm.   Up to a foot of snow was expec...
 An ATM machine is protected from the rain, as pedestrians face the rain in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010. A new storm came just da...
 Front loaders are used to remove snow from Broadway north of New York's Times Square, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010 in New York.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
 In this cell phone image, Angelo Annunziata, 58, complains about the still unplowed snow in front of his house on 62nd Street and 23rd Avenue in Broo...
 Front loaders are used to remove snow from Broadway north of New York's Times Square, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

WINTER WEATHER

Louis Swingrover walks along Sherman Avene in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 during a snow storm. Up to a foot of snow was expec...

California Storm

An ATM machine is protected from the rain, as pedestrians face the rain in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010. A new storm came just da...

Winter Weather

Front loaders are used to remove snow from Broadway north of New York's Times Square, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Winter Weather

In this cell phone image, Angelo Annunziata, 58, complains about the still unplowed snow in front of his house on 62nd Street and 23rd Avenue in Broo...

Winter Weather

Front loaders are used to remove snow from Broadway north of New York's Times Square, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

A winter storm pummeled the western U.S. on Thursday with fierce wind gusts, heavy rain and more than 2 feet (0.6 meters) 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.
Officials closed a road into Yosemite National Park in California after a rock the size of a dump truck tumbled onto the road, and strong winds created snow dunes on rooftops, front yards and streets 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.
Drivers wanting to know how to get around the storms overwhelmed an Arizona hotline that provides automated updates on road conditions. State Department of Transportation spokesman Timothy Tait said the line took in 1.2 million calls in an 8-hour span Thursday morning.
On the East Coast, meanwhile, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited some of the neighborhoods hard-hit by the Christmas-weekend blizzard and confessed Thursday that the city's handling of the crisis was "inadequate and unacceptable." But it was clear the anger wasn't exactly melting away.
The mayor had just declared a victory of sorts _ three days after the snow stopped falling, every street had been plowed at least once, he announced _ when a politician appearing with him stepped up to the microphone to complain.
"Even where I live, there's still about four inches (10 centimeters) to go," Queens Borough President Helen Marshall told the reporters gathered at a recreation center. Partially plowed, packed-down snow from the 20-inch (50-centimeter) storm could still be seen on at least one street nearby.
Marshall said constituents were still calling her office to ask: "Where is the plow?"
Many streets were still impassable or unplowed.
As he did earlier in the week, Bloomberg promised to investigate what went wrong. But he denied budget cuts had anything to do with the city's sluggish response. And while he said he would investigate persistent rumors that snowplow operators staged a slowdown during the storm, he said there was no evidence of such a protest.
Meanwhile, the New York area's three main airports were almost back to a normal, with only a few stranded passengers left. And for the first time since the storm hit, the city's hundreds of subway stations were all up and running Thursday _ the same day a fare increase happened to take effect. The last of some 600 stuck buses had been cleared, as had most of the abandoned cars, the mayor said.
Out West, the Silverton Mountain resort in Colorado reported 22 inches (55 centimeters) of snow, but only about 120 people were on the mountain because officials closed highways leading to the ski area for avalanche control and because of adverse conditions, resort co-founder Jen Brill said.
R.A. Burrell of Colorado Springs left home around 3 a.m. to avoid getting stuck on the way to the extreme ski area and made it before the lift started running.
"I thought we'd really just come on a magical day, which is what it turned out to be," he said during a break from making turns. "We just got lucky."
The National Weather Service said snow could fall at a rate close to an inch (2.5 centimeters) an hour starting Thursday evening in the Denver area, which usually has around 25 inches (63 centimeters) of snow by this time of the season but had just 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) before Thursday.
United Airlines, the dominant carrier at Denver International Airport, canceled 32 United and United Express flights from Denver on Thursday, spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said.
Major highways were also shut down in parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada.
Forecasters said the winds in California were expected to die by early Friday, allowing the cold airmass to create frost and freeze problems in the region.
Meanwhile, southwestern New Mexico was being hit with blizzard conditions that were forecast to continue through midnight Thursday. Winds of up to 65 mph (105 kph), heavy snow and rapidly falling temperatures made travel difficult if not impossible, forecasters said.
Phoenix was bracing for freezing overnight temperatures, a rarity in the desert city. Inmates housed at the city's Tent City jail facility were being issued extra blankets and pink thermal underwear _ part of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's odd method for punishing prisoners.
In the snow-laden Sierra Nevada, search teams found the body of a woman who disappeared while snowboarding at a Lake Tahoe-area resort, sheriff's Capt. Jeff Ausnow said. Shawnte Marie Willis, 25, became separated from friends Tuesday at Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, and bad weather had hindered the search.
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Contributing to this report were Associated Press Writers Jennifer Peltz in New York, Catherine Tsai in Denver, John Antczak and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles, Garance Burke in Fresno, Gillian Flaccus in Orange County, Haven Daley in Sonoma County and Sudhin Thanawala and Terry Collins in San Francisco.


Updated : 2020-12-01 13:54 GMT+08:00