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NM traffic skids to halt

SANTA FE, N.M. — [photoshelter-gallery g_id=”G0000fssVGZJPF_8″ g_name=”Albuquerque-s-Snow-Storm-Part-II-02-27-2015″ width=”600″ f_fullscreen=”t” bgtrans=”t” pho_credit=”iptc” twoup=”f” f_bbar=”t” f_bbarbig=”f” fsvis=”f” f_show_caption=”t” crop=”f” f_enable_embed_btn=”t” f_htmllinks=”t” f_l=”t” f_send_to_friend_btn=”f” f_show_slidenum=”t” f_topbar=”f” f_show_watermark=”t” img_title=”casc” linkdest=”c” trans=”xfade” target=”_self” tbs=”5000″ f_link=”t” f_smooth=”f” f_mtrx=”t” f_ap=”t” f_up=”f” height=”400″ btype=”old” bcolor=”#CCCCCC” ][photoshelter-gallery g_id=”G0000k5Yhulg0HmM” g_name=”Albuquerque-s-Snow-Storm-Feb-26-27″ width=”600″ f_fullscreen=”t” bgtrans=”t” pho_credit=”iptc” twoup=”f” f_bbar=”t” f_bbarbig=”f” fsvis=”f” f_show_caption=”t” crop=”f” f_enable_embed_btn=”t” f_htmllinks=”t” f_l=”t” f_send_to_friend_btn=”f” f_show_slidenum=”t” f_topbar=”f” f_show_watermark=”t” img_title=”casc” linkdest=”c” trans=”xfade” target=”_self” tbs=”5000″ f_link=”t” f_smooth=”f” f_mtrx=”t” f_ap=”t” f_up=”f” height=”400″ btype=”old” bcolor=”#CCCCCC” ]Icy roads and poor visibility created a graveyard of cars and trucks along the interstates and throughout the day Friday as two snowstorms moved into Albuquerque from the west.

“We were one of hundreds and hundreds of cars stopped about 25 miles west of Albuquerque,” said Jon Tevlin, who was traveling across the state with his wife and dog. “As far as I could see, I could see a line of cars. For two hours we didn’t move at all.”

Tevlin said they never discovered what caused the back-up, but as they traveled along Interstate 40 from Gallup they saw many rolled cars along the roadside.

In Albuquerque, police had a busy morning responding to more than 100 accidents without injuries and more than 20 accidents with injuries by 11 a.m. on Friday, according to officer Tanner Tixier, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department.

Throughout the day calls for service for traffic crashes increased as police shut down the iciest roads.

Police closed the on and off ramps around Coors and Interstate 40 for a few hours in the morning. The flyover ramp from I-25 northbound to I-40 westbound and the flyover ramp from I-25 to westbound Paseo del Norte, as well as many other area roads and city streets, were shut down in the evening due to ice.

Police were experiencing such high volumes of calls Friday night that they asked drivers involved in crashes without injuries to exchange information and file a police report at the station the next day rather than requesting immediate assistance.

“It was really a perfect storm of wet weather,” Tixier said. “There were extremely cold temperatures, below-average wind chill and the roads were particularly slick. We’ve been working with city crews on streets all morning. The salt was just not breaking down the ice because it’s so cold.”

Josh Brazil walks through the snow to get his bicycle as it continues to snow in downtown Albuquerque Friday afternoon. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Josh Brazil walks through the snow to get his bicycle as it continues to snow in downtown Albuquerque Friday afternoon. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Albuquerque Public Schools, Rio Rancho Public Schools and the University of New Mexico main and west campuses canceled classes Friday. All non-critical city employees reported to work on a two-hour delay, and officials warned that ABQ Ride would experience delays. “The storm came from Gallup and Grants and picked up in intensity as it headed east,” said Chuck Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. “We certainly accumulated snow statewide but definitely more north of I-40.”

Jones said the first system, which rolled in Thursday night, brought about 3 to 4 inches around the city, and he expected between 1 and 3 inches of accumulation in Albuquerque starting Friday afternoon with the second storm. Rio Rancho received between 1½ and 3 inches. In the East Mountains, Tijeras received 5 inches – the highest recorded in Bernalillo County.

Ski slopes to the north were blessed with plenty of fresh powder over the past 24 hours, boosting an already robust snow base.

Taos Ski Valley received 11 inches in the past 24 hours and 38 inches over the past five days to add to 68 inches of snow on the mountains. Angel Fire Resort added 6 new inches of snowfall to a 64-inch snow base, and Ski Santa Fe got 4 new inches added to a 45-inch base.

The Sandia Peak Ski area is 85 percent open, adding 4 inches of snow to a 22-inch base. Ski Apache got 6 new inches during the storm.

The snow and rain in the middle Rio Grande Valley prompted the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District to delay the start of the irrigation system – usually March 1 – because of muddy ditch banks and the likelihood of more rain and snow.

Tom Thorpe, the MRGCD public information officer, said the district’s ditch riders need to be on the ditch banks at the start of irrigation to fish out debris flushed through the system by the release of water.

He said it would not be wise to put workers, trucks and other equipment on ditch banks that are as muddy as they are now.

Thorpe said the district is pushing back the irrigation start date to March 5 or 7, depending on how much moisture the area gets over the next few days.

The conservancy district’s area stretches 150 miles from Cochiti Dam in the north to the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in the south. Irrigation season normally runs from March 1 to Oct. 31.

While the snowstorm wasn’t the winter’s biggest in terms of accumulation statewide, Jones said, it was significant in the area it covered.

“There was the most snow over a large area,” he said. “Everyone got a pretty decent snow. It was the most impacting storm as it impacted such a wide area of the city and neighboring areas.”

Journal staff writers Ollie Reed Jr. and Nancy Tipton contributed to this report.

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