New Mexico struggles with winter blast aftermath

The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico dealt with the aftermath Tuesday of a severe winter blast that left at least one person dead and closed more schools and highways in the southern part of the state.

Interstate 40 from Albuquerque to Gallup — part of the historic Route 66 — and Interstate 25 between Las Cruces and Belen slowly reopened to traffic after blowing snow caused near-zero visibility and because of ice on the road. A number of crashes were reported on I-10 between Las Cruces and Deming, and there was a multiple car pileup on I-10 east of the Las Cruces airport.

State officials also reopened Interstate 10 between Lordsburg to Las Cruces and U.S. Highway 70 between Alamogordo and Las Cruces following severe weather that closed the highways to traffic.

Meanwhile, police said a Roswell man was killed Tuesday while trying to free his vehicle after sliding off an icy roadway. Pedro Campos, 36, attempted to chain two vehicles together when a third vehicle slid into his vehicle, police said. He was pinned between his truck and the second vehicle.

The storm was the third to hit the state recently and spread heavy snow throughout northern and southern New Mexico. It forced school districts to close or end classes early Monday, as motorists struggled with icy roads. Early Tuesday KOB-TV reported nearly 200 active closings and delays.

Meteorologists said heavy snow wasn’t to blame for the highway closures but rather strong winds brushing the light snow across roads, making visibility difficult. Some areas, such as Tajique, saw 2-foot snow drifts.

Kerry Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said the severe weather was expected to move from the northern and central part of the state to the south Tuesday where winds and light snow were expected to make traveling difficult.

Although most of the snow had stopped, Jones also said residents also should expect wind and bitter cold weather, with temperatures 15 below zero in some parts. He said temperatures would slowly warm throughout the week but that it would delay the melting of snow.

Severe weather even brought snow to southern New Mexico — a region usually spared the worst of winter blasts. Crews worked to clear snow and salted icy roadways in the region, especially around Lordsburg, Silver City, Socorro, Magdalena and Truth or Consequences. More than 700 employees and 500 pieces of equipment will be available to keep state routes clear.

Las Cruces Superintendent Stan Rounds announced Tuesday that all classes were canceled Tuesday due to snow, icy roads and freezing temperature.

New Mexico State University and Dona Ana Community College also both announced a two-hour delayed start for its main campus.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation said the department worked Monday with Las Cruces police and the Housing Authority to make sure that drivers who weren’t close to home could pull over and stay in a temporary shelter until conditions improved.

Bridget Spedalieri, a spokeswoman for NMDOT, told KFOX-TV that department workers in the south still needed help.

“Roads are very icy, very slick,” said Spedalieri. “We’re not fully equipped as much as the northern areas in regards to our snow removal operations, so some of our patrols will send out some of our equipment to other areas.”