The latest winter storm to blow through the Land of Enchantment…
The latest winter storm to blow through the Land of Enchantment…
See updates on road and weather conditions from Wednesday's …
Road conditions from around the state from NNMDOT.
New Mexico and neighboring states updated road conditions.
Updated: Thursday, 04 Feb 2010, 3:14 PM MST
Published : Wednesday, 03 Feb 2010, 10:20 AM MST
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The latest winter storm to blow through the Land of Enchantment came in fast and furious Wednesday delaying schools Thursday in Albuquerque and elsewhere and leaving drivers to cope with a slickened commute.
The Albuquerque Public School district closed its two elementary schools and one middle school in the East Mountains and told mountain high school students attending Manzano High School in the city to stay home.
All other APS schools were on a two-hour delay.
Two weather-related crashes, one of them fatal, closed westbound Interstate 40 in western New Mexico Thursday morning.
New Mexico State Police reported a couple and child from California were headed east with the man driving when they hit a patch of ice about 9:30 a.m. within the Gallup city limits. That sent their pickup truck sliding into the westbound lanes where it struck a second pickup driven by a Gallup-area resident head-on.
Martha R. Toscano, 45, of Ontario, Calif., died in the crash. Moreno G. Toscano, 51, of Ontario, who was driving, was taken to a Gallup hospital, where he was treated and released.
The Toscanos' 4-month-old child, Emmuel, and James T. Riley, 29, of Jamestown, N.M., were airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital with critical injuries.
Westbound traffic was diverted of I-40 and through Gallup for much of the morning.
A second crash involved trucks near the Iyanbito exit east of Gallup. The westbound lanes were closed while the crash was cleaned up. There were no reports of injuries.
The woman's identifty has not been released. A second person was taken to a hospital, and traffic was detoured through Gallup until shortly after 8 a.m.
By Thursday morning the storm was beginning to clear from west to east with scattered reports of snow flurries and fog.
Earlier in the morning heavy snows were coming down throughout metro Albuquerque leaving behind wet and slick streets that have since melted away to just being wet.
Plow trucks were seen heading onto eastbound Interstate 40 toward the East Mountains. I-40 had been closed east and west of Albuquerque periodically Wednesday to give plow crews a chance to catch up and police time to clear numerous accidents.
Two fatalities were reported on state highways in the East Mountains and in San Miguel County although it wasn't clear how much the weather contributed to either.
Thursday's snowfall turned to slush during the day and froze overnight making for a slick commute for drivers passing through that area.
New Mexico State Police were cautioning drivers across New Mexico to take it easy especially the farther north the traveled.
Las Vegas got a healthy dose of snow from the storm. Police there said crews did plow the streets and interstate overnight but with temperatures below freezing black ice was forming.
The situation was similar in Santa Fe where state workers had been sent home two hours early on Wednesday as road conditions deteriorated.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department reported that for the most part streets had been cleared but there were a few reports of motorists sliding off the street overnight.
Deputies were advising motorists to allow extra time for their commutes and keep their speeds down.
NMDOT update of driving conditions in NE counties
Conditions reported as of late Thursday morning:
Storm coverage from Wednesday, Feb. 3:
Interstate 40 is again open in both directions
between Albuquerque and Moriarty as a hard-hitting winter storm blamed in two traffic deaths continues to hammer the state.
The Albuquerque Police Department was advising motorists not already on I-40 eastbound to stay off the freeway for a while to give officers time to clear the congestion already in place. APD also was warning that with the storm forecast to continue overnight the highway could again be shut down.
New Mexico State Police closed I-40 through Tijeras Canyon just before noon Wednesday for accident clean-up and to give New Mexico Department of Transportation crews time to plow and sand the pavement.
Travel still was being discouraged on I-40 across the state with problems also reported on the Interstate 25 corridor from south of Santa Fe to Raton Pass on the Colorado border.
Earlier in the morning one person died on an icy East Mountain highway Wednesday morning, schools were dismissing early and travel was being discouraged on Interstate 40 as the latest burst of winter spread across the midsection of New Mexico.
State workers in noncritical jobs stationed north of Albuquerque were told they could pack up and leave for the day at 3 p.m. (A corrected news release from the governor's office clarified an earlier statement that had included state workers in Albuquerque in the early release.)
Two traffic deaths reported
The fatality was reported on State Road 14 in the Paa-Ko Ridge area north of Cedar Crest where a semi truck and a Chevrolet Blazer collided head-on. The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department reported at least two people with severe injuries were taken from the scene to a hospital as emergency crews worked to extricate a third person trapped in the wreckaged.
A later scaled-back report from the sheriff's department confirmed one person had died but only said at least one other person had been transported to a hospital.
Names of the people involved and the medical condition of the survivors have not yet been released. The crash occurred about 9:30 a.m.
In San Miguel County State Road 3 was closed shortly before 3 p.m. by a one-car crash that killed Johnny Arias, deputy warden of the Penitentiary of New Mexico. Arias, a 20-year veteran of the department who started as a corrections officer, had been promoted to deputy warden on Tuesday, according to the state Corrections Department.
His car rolled on SR3 as was returning from a funeral where he had delivered the eulogy for a co-worker. A veteran of the Iraqi war, he is survived by his wife and two children.
Closures cause traffic nightmare in Albuquerque
The storm forced sections of I-40 to be closed as emergency crews raced to clear up crashes.
It caused a traffic nightmare on the interstate and side roads as police forced drivers to exit.
"It's crazy," said Marsha Edmondson. "We've been sitting on Central (Avenue) for 45 minutes."
Edmondson was trying to get home to fix dinner when she drove into the traffic jam nightmare on Central and Tramway.
State police closed the eastbound lanes of I-40 at Tramway, which made Eubank the last exit still open during the madness.
Some drivers heading that way had to wait in traffic for over an hour and it only got worse once all the vehicles exited. Central Avenue looked more like a parking lot than a busy roadway.
However police said they had no choice, because of bad driving conditions and numerous wrecks east of town, including several semis that slide off the snow packed roads.
Considering the closure was ordered in half an hour, Albuquerque police said they feel they did a pretty decent job controlling the congestion and they say they're ready if they need to divert traffic again.
"You can have the best plans in the world, but when you have thousands of cars with nowhere to go, it's a traffic nightmare, and while we were fortunate enough to get this moving, it could play out all over again in a matter of moments," Albuquerque Public Safety Director Darren White said.
State police warn drivers the canyon area is expected to remain slick through the night. They said they won't hesitate to close the interstate, again, if it gets too bad.
State police keep busy cleaning wrecks
A massive snowstorm Wednesday sent New Mexico State Police scrambling, responding to dozens and dozens of crashes and stranded drivers.
Officers responded to more than 30 calls in the Albuquerque area, and a lot of them came from the East Mountains.
After shutting down I-40 through Tijeras Canyon for two hours to clean up wrecks and stalled cars, state police worked to keep the roads cleared.
Sgt. Jeff Rey patrolled Interstate 40from Tramway Boulevard in Albuquerque to Clines Corners.
"We never want to shut the road down," he said. "We need vehicles on the road to crush the salt and sand into the roadway."
A big part of clearing the roads is getting cars out of the ditches, as soon as possible.
Besides helping stranded drivers, Rey's other big concern was speeders.
"We'll drive in front of them and keep them
at a safe speed," he said.
Officers will do a loop of the canyon, keeping drivers at around 40 miles an hour by acting like pace cars.
By 3 p.m. Wednesday, police had already worked more than 60 wrecks in Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Albuquerque and between Gallup and Grants.
Numerous schools close early
The Albuquerque Public Schools announced it was closing Roosevelt Middle School in the East Mountains at 12:15 p.m. and releasing East Mountain students attending Manzano High School in Albuquerque at 11:50 a.m.
Public schools in Magdalena, Belen, Estancia, Vaughn, Capitan, Pecos and Las Vegas were also among the districts sending students home early.
(For an updating list of school and community closings, click here .)
Travel hazardous on I-40
State Police also closed I-40 on Albuquerque's West Side at the Paseo del Volcán exit at about 10 a.m. Sanding trucks were working the area near Rio Puerco, and shortly after 11 a.m. traffic was again moving although slowly.
In the East Mountains conditions on I-40 over Sedillo Hill varied from slushy to snowpacked, according to the New Mexico Department of Transportation. Farther east the DOT said the 25 miles of I-40 between Newkirk and Tucumcari was particulary troublesome as a mix of rain and snow made driving difficult.
DOT crews were plowing and sanding in the area.
I-40 was closed for a while at Sky City by an accident involving a big rig. Traffic was being diverted around the crash on a state highway although tractor-trailers were not allowed on the road due to low clearance under a bridge.
Road conditions elsewhere
Heavy snow was reported to be falling in the Sacramento Mountains around Cloudcroft and on U.S. Highway 54 in the area of Corona.
At 3 p.m. NMDOT reported these driving conditions in northeastern counties:
A section of I-25 between Socorro and Truth or Consequences also was described as snowy and icy.
In southwestern New Mexico SR 90 northeast of Lordsburg was snowpacked and icy as were roads in the Silver City area.
Light snow was reported to be falling in parts of northeastern New Mexico.
Snow is expected to turn to rain in some areas as daytime temperatures rise although snow will continue to fall at higher elevations. However the National Weather Service is forecasting the snow level to drop to 5,000 feet elevation by Thursday morning.