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Storms move into New Mexico

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Stormy weather moved into New Mexico on Thursday and is likely to linger for the Memorial Day weekend.

A severe dust storm may have played a role in a multi-vehicle crash that killed six people on Interstate 10, just west of Lordsburg, on Thursday evening, according to State Police.

At least one of the vehicles involved in the crash was believed to be a semitrailer. State Police were still investigating and no further information was immediately available.

Rain and large hail also was blamed for multiple car accidents in northern New Mexico.

The Albuquerque metro area will see its best chance of rain on Saturday, said Jason Frazier, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Albuquerque.

Frazier said there was a 50 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms in the Duke City on Saturday, better odds than the 30-40 percent chance predicted for today. Look for partly cloudy and slowly clearing skies on Sunday with a 20 percent chance of precipitation at best, and mostly sunny skies on Monday.

The last rain in the Albuquerque area was on May 12, though it wasn’t much – under a tenth of an inch. You have to go back to March 14 for a bit more rain, about triple what fell on May 12.

Temperatures will be in the middle to upper 70s today in the metro area, lower 70s on Saturday and Sunday, and upper 70s to near 80 on Monday.

No strong or sustained winds were anticipated during the holiday weekend, though wind gusts may be felt briefly during showers or thunderstorms, Frazier said.

The hail that struck Las Vegas, N.M., on Thursday snarled traffic along Interstate 25, forcing authorities to temporarily close part of the highway. No injuries were reported.

Meanwhile, eastern New Mexico, especially around Clovis, remained at risk for severe storms thanks to a system that reportedly brought quarter-sized hail and damaging 60 mph winds.

In addition, the Sandia, Manzano and Sangre de Cristo mountain chains in central New Mexico were expected to experience scattered thunderstorms.

Sporadic thunderstorms should continue today, and officials fear that means drought-stricken areas may get lightning that could spark wildfires.

Frazier said there were unconfirmed reports of about 6 inches of accumulation of hail on I-25 between Watrous and Wagon Mound in Mora County, causing traffic to back up.

He said pea- to dime-sized hail fell south of there in Las Vegas, which had 0.17 inches of precipitation recorded at the airport.

Eastern portions of the state appear to have been hardest hit, especially along the Interstate 40 corridor between Santa Rosa and the Texas border.

Frazier said San Jon got 2.34 inches of rain within a two-hour period beginning about 3 p.m. Prior to Thursday, San Jon had only received 0.22 inches of precipitation so far this year, he said.

As of about 6 p.m. Thursday, Frazier said a reporting station in Chaves County about 20 miles north of Roswell had received about nine-tenths of an inch of rain.

Frazier said there hadn’t been any reports of major flooding, but the Weather Service was keeping an eye on the sky.

“(Today) and Saturday the eastern plains and the northern mountains could get some more as an upper-level storm system moves in. We’re expecting more rounds of severe weather as we go into the weekend,” he said.

New Mexico has experienced record-setting fire seasons during two of the past three years, and land managers are worried this summer could set another record given the dry conditions. The state has been battered by drought and persistently high fire danger in recent years.

The human-caused Signal Fire, burning in southwestern New Mexico and the state’s largest current fire, was 90 percent contained as of Thursday, officials said. It started burning in grass and timber about 10 miles north of Silver City on May 11.

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