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Arizona Welcomes Summer With Snow, Hail And Tornado Warnings

May 25, 1996

PHOENIX (AP) _ Snow, tornadoes, hail, lightning ... Allyson Busch giggled as she rattled off the bizarre menu of weather in Arizona on Saturday.

It was far from your typical Memorial Day weekend forecast, but after three weeks in the high 90s and 100s, even a water park employee like Busch was ready for a break.

``There’s definitely been that kind of mood around here. It’s a nice weather change,″ said Busch, a secretary at Waterworld Safari Water Park.

Summer appeared to be taking the holiday off in Arizona, where temperatures were about 20 degrees below normal around the state. It was 79 degrees in Phoenix, 43 degrees at the Grand Canyon and 68 degrees in Tucson at midday.

The unseasonable cold extended as far north as Las Vegas, where hail was reported Saturday, and as far south as San Diego, where temperatures there and in Los Angeles were 20 to 30 degrees colder than normal. Eight inches of snow fell Friday in southern Nevada, where it was still cold and rainy.

While there were no initial reports of damage, the National Weather Service issued tornado warnings throughout the afternoon in northeastern Arizona after a funnel cloud was spotted east of Tuba City, on the Navajo Indian Reservation.

Forecasters called it ``a dangerous storm situation″ and warned residents of the Navajo-Coconino County border area to abandon cars and mobile homes and to seek shelter below ground if they came in the path of a tornado. But residents seemed to be going about their regular business.

``The clouds are really dark, and the sky looks really weird, but it’s not like people are running and hiding,″ said Char Manygoats, assistant manager of the Tonalea General Store northeast of Tuba City.

Forecasters issued a snow advisory around the Grand Canyon on Friday evening, but canceled it by mid-morning Saturday, saying the wet flakes weren’t accumulating.

The weather service also issued a lightning warning, prompting Tonto National Forest officials to keep in place bans on campfires and charcoal that resulted from several large forest fires.

``The fuel is still out there, and the land is still dry,″ said Tonto spokesman Bob Montgomery.

The cool breeze comes at the end of one of the hottest Mays on record. Starting May 7, there have been seven days 100 degrees or hotter, including several scorchers of 107 degrees and 109 degrees. On average, there are five days over 100 in May.

The cool snap was the result of a strong low pressure system centered over Las Vegas, said forecaster Craig Ellis. The system was supposed to move next to parts of Utah and New Mexico.

Ellis offered vacationers a word of advice on the lower temperatures: ``Enjoy it now, because we’ll be back up in the 90s by Tuesday, and then there’s no turning back until the fall.″

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