This NOAA satellite image taken Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 01:00 PM EST shows mostly sunny skies persist over the West Coast as high pressure dominates. To the east, a low pressure system over the Central and Southern Rockies brings heavy snow [auth] to Colorado and New Mexico, with light snow showers stretching into the Central Plains. (AP PHOTO/WEATHER UNDERGROUND)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Just days after a blizzard struck parts of New Mexico, the state is bracing for another blast of snow that could cause trouble for holiday travelers.
The National Weather Service has placed most of the state on a winter storm warning until late Friday. Heavy snow and winds up to 65 mph were expected to hit western and central New Mexico.
As much as 12 inches of snow is expected in mountain regions and up to 7 inches could hit parts of northeast and central New Mexico.
By Thursday night, snow was falling in Grants, Santa Fe, in the mountains east of Albuquerque and further north.
Interstate 40 from Gallup to Albuquerque, and U.S. 64/87 between Raton and Clayton were closed due to snowpacked and icy conditions. I-25 through Socorro County and a section of U.S. 285 near Santa Fe were also closed.
Authorities were warning of difficult driving conditions elsewhere as well.
The storm could pose problems for holiday travelers since heavy snow and wind gust could reduce visibility to near zero in some parts, making travel nearly impossible, according to the National Weather Service.
“It’s going to be very difficult to drive on I-40 from the Arizona border to Albuquerque, and on I-25 just south of Albuquerque,” said Chuck Jones, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
Officials said the Raton Pass also is expected to be difficult to drive through.
Jones said winds of 25 to 40 mph were expected in the Rio Grande Valley with gusts up to 65 mph. Wind chill could fall below zero in central and northern New Mexico.
The storm follows a blizzard in New Mexico earlier this week that claimed the lives of four people in a weather-related collision. In addition, the National Guard and state transportation workers helped rescue people from 32 vehicles buried in heavy snow and drifts as high as 10 feet.
A Texas family was stuck for nearly two days in their SUV after it was buried in a snowdrift on a rural New Mexico highway until rescue workers found them.
Yvonne Higgins remained in the hospital with pneumonia Thursday, while her husband, David Higgins, and his father were on their way to pick up the family’s vehicle after it was pulled from the snowdrift by rescuers. The family plans to return to Texas when Yvonne Higgins is released from the hospital, though it was unclear when that might be.