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Storm disrupts city, sends ‘snownado’ to Cuba

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico and Albuquerque police had handled about 140 crashes as of Tuesday afternoon, one of the effects of the blustery, wintry blast that shut down much of Albuquerque and made quite the appearance through the state in the past few days.

That included raging winds knocking over a wind turbine in eastern New Mexico on Saturday and the state’s first February tornado – a “snownado” some called it – touching down southwest of Cuba on Sunday.

Parts of the drought-stricken Four Corners region reported as much as 8 inches of snow overnight Monday, and some New Mexico ski areas reported receiving snowfall of 8 inches and more.

And weather officials are predicting more snow and low temperatures for the rest of the week.

Richard Lovato and Cristian Gutierrez of Sun Vista Landscaping shovel the sidewalks near businesses on Academy on Tuesday morning. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Richard Lovato and Cristian Gutierrez of Sun Vista Landscaping shovel the sidewalks near businesses on Academy on Tuesday morning. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Kerry Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said during a weather briefing Tuesday afternoon that the Albuquerque area can expect cold weather and precipitation Thursday and Friday.

“We are looking at another significant system for the end of the week,” he said.

Beginning today, he said, much of the state will have temperatures about 15 to 20 degrees lower than average. In Albuquerque, that means a low of about 20 degrees tonight.

Officials said snow and rain are possible throughout western and central New Mexico on Thursday. That storm is likely to continue to bring moisture to the state Friday, with snow at high elevations and rain at lower areas.

Snow that fell overnight on Monday affected Albuquerque schools, courts and city businesses Tuesday.

Though Albuquerque road crews began treating streets at 3 a.m. Tuesday, city government canceled all nonessential functions for the day, allowing most of its nearly 6,000 employees to stay home.

Conditions had vastly improved by the time Mayor Tim Keller and his top administrators hosted a weather briefing news conference at 11 a.m. But Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael said Albuquerque Police Department crash reports from the morning partly led to the decision to close most city offices, as did Albuquerque Public Schools’ move to call off classes.

“We have lots of families impacted by their children having to stay (home),” Rael said.

Slick roads were a problem for many on Tuesday morning. () ^^^^^^^^^^^ More than 100 crashes were reported between midnight and 11 a.m. in Albuquerque. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Slick roads were a problem for many on Tuesday morning. More than 100 crashes were reported between midnight and 11 a.m. in Albuquerque. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

APD said it had responded to more than 100 auto crashes between midnight and about 11 a.m. Tuesday, including more than 22 with injuries.

Officer Ray Wilson, a spokesman for New Mexico State Police, said Tuesday afternoon that State Police had responded to 44 crashes around the state in the previous 24 hours. Eighteen of those crashes were handled by officers in the Albuquerque office, which responds to the Albuquerque, Cuba, Los Lunas and Edgewood areas.

City buses ran on regular schedules, albeit with some delays and operational changes, such as using shorter buses on the Rapid Ride Blue Line.

“The one 60-foot bus that did go out very early (Tuesday) morning eventually stopped due to ice at Coors and Sevilla NW, and it was towed back to the shop and replaced with a 40-foot bus to continue that route,” ABQ Ride Director Bernie Toon said.

A dusting of snow accumulates in Corrales on Tuesday morning. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

A dusting of snow accumulates in Corrales on Tuesday morning. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

The city’s Solid Waste Department did not perform residential trash and recycling pickups, and will run collections a day later than usual the rest of the week. Officials said they would catch up by the weekend, after doing Friday routes on Saturday.

Although the storm brought much-needed moisture to parts of the state, Jones of the National Weather Service said individual storms don’t have an immediate effect on drought conditions.

For example, the Four Corners region has received a significant amount of snow in recent days. Parts of the area are considered to be under extreme and exceptional drought, he said.

“The one area that desperately needs rain and snow is the Four Corners area, and they’ve certainly had it the last seven days, and we’re not done with it,” Jones said.

Despite the recent storms, snowpack totals in north-central New Mexico are only about average. Other parts of the state have had far less snowfall than a normal year, according to weather data.

For example, the “snow water equivalent” totals in north-central New Mexico as of Feb. 17 were just about normal. In the western and southwestern New Mexico, the snow water equivalent in places is less than half of normal for this time of year, according to the data.

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