Area sent into a deep freeze

Eric Barela, 16, eludes the tackle of Jared West, 16, as he makes his way to the end zone for a touchdown Wednesday at Spencer Field in Clovis. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Cassie McClure: CNJ correspondent

When most people were sleeping early Wednesday morning, city street department employees were braving the chilly, snowy air, dumping concoctions of sand and salt at intersections to help keep motorists safe.

In all, the crews drove the salt trucks for 12 hours until 3 p.m. — two crews of eight, working eight-hour, overlapping shifts — on a day in which Clovis received roughly 3 inches of snow, according to unofficial reports provided by the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.

“We’re always prepared,” Public Works Director Harry Wang said. “We do shift our priorities to the snow.”

The salt reduces the freezing point of the ice, eventually melting it, and the sand adds traction for motorists traveling through town.

The crews will be salting streets for another 12 hours today, when there is a slight chance of even heavier snow into the evening, said Jeff Michalski, meteorological technician at the National Weather Service.

With a winter storm watch today, Michalski said the weather would be warming up Friday to 40 degrees, most likely melting what is already on the ground and reducing the chances of a white Christmas.

By 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Clovis police had reported seven weather-related accidents.

“People need to slow down,” Police Chief Bill Carey said. “Even if you have a four-wheel-drive, they require the same time to slow down as a two-wheel-drive.”

Cannon Air Force Base moved to Mission Essential status Wednesday morning, meaning that only those needed to support the base, such as the police and fire department, were called to work. Sgt. Jack Suther of the Cannon Weather Desk said he’s expecting 1 to 2 inches of snow this evening.

As temperatures drop early in the morning and evening hours today, water on streets will turn to black ice, Carey said.

“All that will freeze over and people only need to go out when it is essential,” Carey said.

For street department employees that will be unavoidable. Wang said they’ll be dumping sand and salt at nearly every intersection in Clovis. When the truck can’t dump enough in one intersection, crew members exit the cab with shovels to make sure it has enough sand and salt to keep motorists safe.

“A lot of people don’t even realize how hard these guys work,” Wang said.

CNJ News Editor Mike Linn contributed to this story.