Snow pummels Portales

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico

A wintry mix of freezing rain, high winds and fast-falling snow Thursday blanketed the area and shut down a majority of the community.

Clovis and Portales schools and government agencies closed Thursday and today after upwards of 6 inches of snow covered roadways already slick from freezing rain.

Cannon Air Force Base also canceled operations for all non-essential personnel, and many businesses were closed.

Northeast and central New Mexico as far south as Roswell remain under a winter storm warning.

Heavy snowfall is expected to continue this morning, bringing between 3 and 5 inches of additional accumulation, according to the National Weather Service office in Albuquerque.

Temperatures remained in the low 20s Thursday with a wind chill of 6 degrees. Today temperatures are expected to rise into the low 30s, and high winds are expected to continue, causing drifting and decreased visibility.

The winter storm dumped snow throughout the day Thursday, making treacherous road conditions and prompting police to caution residents to stay home.

Icy conditions and packed snow on streets and major highways caused travel difficulties across the region with no quick end in sight.

State police closed portions of I-40 near Tucumcari.

Thursday evening, N.M. 523 was closed east of Clovis, until conditions improve, said Local Emergency Planning Director Ken De Los Santos.

De Los Santos said the road was impassable due to snow drifts.

In Roosevelt County, Portales Deputy Police Chief Lonnie Berry said accidents related to the snow storm were low in city limits, largely because schools and many businesses closed to keep traffic at a minimum.

Berry said city crews were waiting for a break in the storm to clear side streets of snow and ice.

“It’s hard to get to it while its still snowing,” Berry said. “When we get a break we’ll try to attack it. We’ll react to that as it comes up.”

Berry said his department also switched most of its force to four-wheel drive vehicles.

The winter storm isn’t expected to let up until late today.

Some thawing is expected to begin in the afternoon and continue through the weekend as temperatures gradually warm, said meteorologist Brent Wachter at the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.

Jack-knifed trucks and cars stuck in ditches were common sights along streets and roads in both Clovis and Roosevelt County.

“(Roads are) extremely icy and snow-packed, and the wind is blowing so it’s very cold with the wind chill factor,” Clovis Police Chief Steve Sanders said.

“If at all possible (people) just need to stay home. Don’t come out here and get stranded.”

To check road conditions, visit www.nmroads.com or call 1(800)432-4269