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Preparedness is Key to Surviving an El Niño Winter

Seelhammer“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Benjamin Franklin – and looking at our weather forecasts, this seems good advice for the winter.

It is probably always good advice for winter, but this year, the National Weather Service (NWS) is forecasting a wetter than normal winter season for Northern Arizona because of a strong El Niño weather pattern. This means winter preparedness is more important than in recent years for Coconino County residents.

There are several things you can do to be prepared for the possibility of heavy snow loads and the threat of flooding in the coming weeks. Please share these tips with your friends and family:

  1.          Sign up for CodeRED emergency notifications at:
  2. Secure Private Plowing Services for private roads: The county cannot provide snow plowing services for private roads.
  3. No Parking on County Roads: Motorists are prohibited from parking on county roadways between Nov. 1 and April 1. Residents are asked to remove all private objects from the county right-of-way and to park five to 10 feet from the roadway to allow room for snowplows to pass.
  4.            Prepare for Extended “Snow-Ins”: More frequent snow events might cause power outages and might significantly hinder travel. It is important to have enough supplies at home to weather the storm. This includes:
  • Three days of non-perishable food and water (one gallon per day per family member)
  • First aid kit and extra supply of medication
  • Personal hygiene supplies, extra clothing, footwear, gloves, blankets, sleeping bags
  • Extra food for pets and livestock
  • Flashlight, extra batteries, candles and a battery operated radio
  • Alternate heat source (kerosene, wood, etc.) and full propane tank (if applicable)
  • Extra set of car keys, cash, credit cards
  • Snow shovels
  • An emergency plan for the entire family
  1. Winterize Your Vehicle: Check antifreeze, wipers, battery, add snow tires, and stock the vehicle with an emergency kit consisting of: tire chains or cables, blankets, tow strap, jumper cables, flashlight, water, first aid kit, ice scraper, extra clothing and appropriate tools. Remember to keep your gas tank at least half full to help prevent freezing in the fuel lines.
  2. Plan Travel Accordingly: If you must travel, let someone know your intended route and expected time of arrival. Stay informed about incoming and ongoing storms through a weather radio or by visiting the NWS website at Use the Arizona Department of Transportation’s system for interstate travel information. The county encourages all citizens to heed all NWS Winter Storm Watches and Warnings and to stay off the roads as much as possible during a storm.
  3. Call 9-1-1 for Emergency Situations: First responders will coordinate with Public Works if plowing to the scene of an emergency is necessary.
  4. Purchase/Renew Flood Insurance: The risk from El Niño flooding this winter is real. A flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program covers damage to your home and belongings caused by flooding. Purchase/renew flood insurance through or by calling 1-800-720-1093. Please note: when purchasing a flood insurance policy, there is a 30-day waiting period for coverage to become effective. Also, because El Niño can produce excessive rain, Public Works has set up self-serve sandbag stations at fire district stations around the County.
  5. Additional Information: For questions about snow removal operations and related road conditions, please contact the following:
  • Coconino County: For County maintained roads, please call Public Works at 928-679- 8300 during normal business hours (7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.).
  • Follow Coconino County on Facebook at and Twitter at for updates on road and weather conditions as available.
  • City of Flagstaff: Please call either 928-213-2175 or 928-774-1605 during normal business hours.
  • Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT): For highway road conditions, please call 5-1-1 or visit ADOT’s online Traffic Operations Center at
  • National Weather Service (NWS): For weather information about winter storms, please visit the NWS web page at
  • Emergencies: To report snow-related road emergencies, please call 9-1-1.
  1. Finally, please visit for a new page dedicated to El Niño activity in Northern Arizona. FBN


By Cynthia Seelhammer, Manager of Coconino County


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