"It's the first time we've seen snow in the desert," said Mayra Vasquez, who brought Valeria Luzania, 11, and MarcoDario Luzania, 8, to Saguaro National Park on Wednesday. (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star/AP)

In recent weeks, the country’s Northeast, from Washington to Boston, has been mild and virtually snowless. A blast of winter, meanwhile, has visited an unlikely place: the desert Southwest.

Snow has dusted the deserts and blanketed the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico in recent days. Beautiful scenes emerged from the Grand Canyon on New Year’s Day.


Snow covers the Grand Canyon in Arizona on New Year's Day. (Anna Johnson/AP)

In Tucson, where snow is rare, 0.4 inches fell Tuesday, as much as Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston combined since Dec. 1.

Near Mountainair, N.M., at an elevation of 6,700 feet, resident David Policansky reported about 20 inches of snow on December’s final weekend, with a topping of two to three inches to ring in the New Year. Policansky said areas around Los Alamos got up to 18 inches.


Snow in Mountainair, N.M., on Dec. 30. (David Policansky)

Albuquerque picked up several inches on New Year’s Day, forcing government agencies and schools to close Wednesday.

Although Phoenix did not receive any snow, it witnessed its coldest air in five years on Wednesday morning. The low dipped to 30 degrees, and it was colder than Anchorage.

In Flagstaff, Ariz., the high temperature of 20 degrees on New Year’s Day was its coldest in five years. On Thursday morning, low temperatures around Flagstaff dropped into the single digits and even below zero in some spots.

The wintry weather resulted from a deep pool of cold air at high altitudes that has been parked over the region for the past week or so. It is beginning to exit, which will bring a return to much milder conditions starting Friday.


European model simulation of pool of cold air over the Southwest on Jan. 2.

The scenes of the snow coating the desert cactus, red rocks and rolling terrain are breathtaking. See a sampling below.


Snow partially covers a cactus outside Tucson near Vail, Ariz., on Jan. 2, 2019. (Jessica Howard/AP)