By Kevin Wilson
On the year’s busiest weekend for travel and shopping, Portales residents were subjected to a little bit of inclement weather. However, Portales’ weather was not as extreme as weather that caused accidents and road closures across northern areas of New Mexico.
Jim Kratzer, a meteorologist at Cannon Air Force Base, said that Portales received about two inches of snow, making this November an above-average one for snowfall.
“It’s been pretty consistent,” Kratzer said about the weekend snow. “Of course, the bulk of that snow came late (Sunday) night and it dropped down to a little flurry by noon (Monday). The snow around here has certainly been a lot less than up north.”
Kratzer said that some areas in the northern part of the state received six to eight inches.
Weather-related traffic crashes killed at least three people on New Mexico roads since the storm began dumping snow on the state Sunday.
Gov. Bill Richardson dismissed state employees in Albuquerque and Santa Fe early Monday afternoon, urging them to get home and stay off the roads.
Earlier in the day, authorities had to temporarily close down portions of both Interstate 40 east of Albuquerque and Interstate 25 at La Bajada Hill southwest of Santa Fe because of the weather.
By late Monday, conditions in those areas had improved but accidents were reported on I-40 west of Albuquerque.
The storm created treacherous road conditions across portions of north and central New Mexico and forced delays for a number of school districts.
On Sunday, a car spun and collided with another vehicle on snowpacked U.S. 550 between Cuba and Bloomfield, State Police Lt. Jimmy Glascock said. Brittany Currier and Darius Thomas, both 19 and both in the car that spun, were killed, he said.
At least two other crashes occurred when vehicles tried to avoid the wreckage of the initial crash, Glascock said. Nobody was seriously injured in those accidents.
A Tohatchi woman was killed Sunday morning when the car she was driving spun on an icy section of U.S. 491 and collided with another vehicle 15 miles north of Gallup, state police said.
Bernice Yazzie, 21, was home on leave from Marine Corps basic training when she died, authorities said.
State police temporarily shut down the northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 25 at dawn Monday at La Bajada Hill southwest of Santa Fe because of a traffic crash on an icy patch of the highway, said S.U. Mahesh, state Department of Transportation spokesman. Both lanes were back open by midmorning.
Authorities also shut down eastbound and westbound lanes of Interstate 40 through Tijeras Canyon just east of Albuquerque for more than an hour Monday morning because of snow.
No roads were shut down in the Portales area. Portale Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said that most accident calls were on a stretch of U.S. 70 between Portales and Kenna. Officials at the New Mexico State Police Department said there were no serious injuries to report in the area.
The snow caused classes to begin two hours later than normal Monday at public school districts in Bernalillo, Chama, Gallup-McKinley County, Jemez Mountain, Las Vegas, Mescalero, Mora, Pecos, Pojoaque, Questa, Santa Fe, Taos, Wagon Mound, West Las Vegas and Zuni.
Schools in the Portales area were relatively unaffected. Eastern New Mexico University, however, is canceling Tuesday’s 8 a.m. classes as a precaution. Classes will resume at 9:30 a.m., according to a university release, and employees are required to report to work at 8 a.m.
For the month, Kratzer said that Portales has received about seven inches of snow — the average snowfall in November is about 1.5 inches. He added that over the last 50 years, Portales receives snow about twice every November.
The upper-level storm system was over eastern Arizona before daybreak Monday and was moving over New Mexico, the National Weather Service said.
New Mexico’s weather will dry out Tuesday, the weather bureau said.
A weak weather disturbance should clip the northeastern corner of the state Wednesday.
Temperatures will be below normal through Friday.
There is a 20 percent chance of precipitation today, followed by three days of no precipitation, according to the Weather Channel’s online site (www.weather.com).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.