Winter weather leaves 1 dead in New Mexico

November 23, 2013 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Parts of northern New Mexico have already received a dusting of snow and there have been reports of freezing rain across the eastern plains, but forecasters said the latest storm to bear down on the state is far from over.

The first of the one-two punch ended overnight, but the brunt of the storm — what forecasters with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque called the “big kahuna” — is expected to cross the Arizona state line into New Mexico on Saturday.

“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 [auth] Chuck Jones.

The system is expected to bring widespread snow through the rest of the weekend, with as much as three feet on some mountain peaks and several inches in the lower elevations. High temperatures in some parts will reach only the single digits, and the wind is expected to continue to howl through the valleys and canyons.

A winter storm warning will remain in effect for much of the state through Monday.

The first wave of wintery weather resulted in some difficult driving conditions along Interstate 25 and other highways in New Mexico on Friday. In Roosevelt County, state police reported the first weather-related fatality — a 4-year-old girl from Clovis.

State Police Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said Esmeralda Trejo died Friday when her family’s car started to slide across U.S. 70. The vehicle traveled across the traffic lanes and overturned on the shoulder. Trejo was not wearing a seat belt and was killed. The driver, front passenger and another child suffered minor injuries.

On Saturday, parts of Interstate 25 north of Rowe and I-40 from Clines Corners to the Texas-New Mexico state line were snowpacked and icy.

Crews with the state Department of Transportation were busy running snowplows up and down the roadways and spreading cinder to combat the icy conditions. However, no closures were reported.

Some schools delayed opening Friday, while others closed early, including Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.

Worsening road conditions also prompted officials at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in the southeastern corner of the state to close early. Officials said they were also delaying Saturday’s opening due to the weather.

November has been a fairly dry month so far, but forecasters said the next 48 hours will help to turn that around, particularly for the state’s ski areas.

Sipapu is already open, but several more ski areas are scheduled to open for the Thanksgiving weekend.

Ski Santa Fe hopes to be one of them. Spokeswoman Candy DeJoia told The Santa Fe New Mexican that a Thanksgiving Day opening is something that hasn’t happened at the resort in nearly 10 years.

“We have been making snow in preparation for a Thanksgiving opening and Mother Nature has been helping us out with this storm,” she said.

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