ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A winter storm system was bearing down on much of New Mexico on Friday as freezing temperatures and a mix of snow and rain made for difficult driving conditions on some highways.
Interstate 25 and roads throughout northern New Mexico were icy and packed with snow. Crews were busy plowing and spreading cinder on numerous roads across the region, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The wintery weather also prompted some schools to delay opening Friday, while others closed early. Eastern New Mexico University in Portales closed its campus, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park in the southeastern corner of the state closed due to worsening road conditions.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque said the first wave of the storm would end Friday night but the brunt — what they called the “Big Kahuna” — would be moving across the Arizona state line and into New Mexico late Saturday and early Sunday morning.
“The state’s going to get pounded by a good dose of rain, a little bit of sleet and a lot of snow in the higher elevations. Even the lower elevations Saturday night are going to pick up snow,” said meteorologist Chuck Jones.
Where the bands of snow ultimately set up will depend on the effects of east winds, Jones said.
Some freezing rain was reported Friday afternoon in the Roswell area, but the weather wasn’t as bad as forecasters had expected. However, by Sunday, the system would bring several inches of snow to the lower elevations and between 1 and 2 feet to the northern mountains, with some peaks getting close to 3 feet, they said.
The wind has also been howling. At the Albuquerque airport, gusts reached 51 mph Friday.
A winter storm warning was in effect Friday throughout the northeast and a hazard weather outlook was issue for parts of northern and central New Mexico.
November has been a fairly dry month so far, but Jones said the next 48 hours will help to turn that around. He said the state’s ski areas can expect to pick up “quite a bit more” snow.
Sipapu is already open, but several more ski areas are scheduled to open for the Thanksgiving weekend.