LAS VEGAS – Flights resumed in and out of Las Vegas, but schools and highways were closed Thursday after a record-setting snowfall coated marquees on the Strip, weighed down palm trees and blanketed surrounding mountain areas.
The city awoke to clear weather after a storm that left 3.6 inches at McCarran International Airport. It was biggest December snowfall on record there, and the worst for any month since a 7 1/2-inch accumulation in January 1979, forecasters said.
The storm Wednesday and early Thursday also dumped snow or rain and snarled travel in other parts of Nevada, much of southern California and parts of northern Arizona.
"It looks like Whoville, all snowy, but with less joy and more extreme misery," said Calen Weiss, 19, who was stuck Wednesday when snow in the Cajon Pass east of Los Angeles disrupted travel on Interstate 15.
Cajon Pass and another leg of Interstate 15 near the Nevada line both reopened by midday Thursday, while Interstate 5, the major route between Northern and Southern California, partially reopened.
In Washington state, Seattle got a rare 4-inch accumulation, and the 19.4 inches of snow that piled up at Spokane International Airport smashed the 24-hour record total of 13 inches set in 1950. And snow continued to fall — 23.3 inches had piled up in Spokane in the 36-hour period that ended at 4 p.m. Thursday.
The city of 200,000 declared a "Condition Red" snow emergency, meaning crews will work around the clock until they complete a full city plow.
The storm was heading east. Northern Illinois was forecast to receive up to 14 inches of snow Thursday night and Friday, while Michigan's Lower Peninsula was expecting up to 10. Road commissions were on high alert with snow and salting teams standing by, and some people left work early and made a run on gas and grocery stores.
For Las Vegas, the storm left heavy wet accumulations of snow along the famed Strip. At least one carport toppled under the accumulated weight, authorities said, and motorists in Henderson parked their cars and walked home when tires spun as they tried to navigate slippery uphill climbs.
Thursday was the first snow day for Clark County schools since the 1979 storm, district spokesman Michael Rodriguez said.
Airlines resumed flights Thursday after canceling dozens of them late Wednesday, McCarran airport spokesman Jerry Pascual said.
"Visibility has lifted. The outlook for the day is much better," Pascual said as the sun rose Thursday. Pascual said just one flight had gotten out overnight and stranded travelers were forced to sleep on lounge seats and floors at the nation's sixth-busiest airport.
In Arizona, snow was widespread in the state's higher elevations, with 24-hour accumulations reaching 10 inches in Flagstaff by daybreak. By 10 a.m. Thursday, official weather service measurements had 18 inches of snow on the ground in Flagstaff.
Authorities said major highways were open but advised drivers to be careful of packed snow and ice.
In western Washington, the Seattle School District had been mocked by some for closing schools Wednesday with just a threat of snow. The threat became a reality Thursday, and 4 inches of snow by midday left many drivers spinning their wheels on slippery roads.
The National Weather Service said the city even had an episode of "thundersnow" when a storm cell moved across Puget Sound.
Rachel Bjork, 36, waited in vain for a downtown bus at a stop in north Seattle as four outbound buses passed.
"I'm getting a little annoyed. It's cold," Bjork said. "I would suspect there's probably going to be four people at work. Usually there's 30."
In Kitsap County, across Puget Sound from Seattle, authorities said freezing weather may have claimed the life of a 36-year-old man who wandered from his house wearing only light clothing. Deputies said he had been ill and there was no evidence of foul play.
Even Malibu, Calif., got a dusting of snow Wednesday, as the usually balmy city saw a half-inch in the afternoon.
"It's kind of cool if you think about it, said Craig Levy, director of a juvenile detention camp. "It's kind of unusual to see snow in Malibu."
Associated Press writers Robert Jablon in Los Angeles, Elliot Spagat in San Diego and Nicholas K. Geranios in Spokane, Wash., contributed to this report.