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New Mexico gets whacked by snow, rain

A winter storm that pummeled New Mexico left roads virtually impassable, closed schools and blanketed one town with 13 inches of snow.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Gov. Bill Richardson declared a state of emergency as a winter storm pummeled the state, leaving roads virtually impassable, closing schools and blanketing one town with 13 inches of snow.

Richardson’s declaration signed late Tuesday freed up about $750,000 in state funds to help cover overtime costs for road crews, police and emergency workers, said Pahl Shipley, a spokesman for the governor.

The worst of the snow and rain was across northern, eastern and central New Mexico. All state employees were sent home two hours early and Los Alamos National Laboratory closed for the day.

The winter storm had moved out of the state by early Wednesday.

At its peak, truckers and other travelers packed truck stops and hotels, many schools were closed and hundreds of people went without electricity. Some schools announced two-hour delays for Wednesday.

All roads were listed as “clear and passable” by the state Transportation Department, although officials warned sections of Interstates 40 and 25, which had temporarily been closed, were still wet and icy.

The Best Western Powwow in Tucumcari, with a capacity of about 90 customers, had more than 80 rooms and apartments full, clerk Georgie Primrose said. Asked how often the motel fills up, she responded: “How often does it snow?”

The storm blanketed the New Mexico community of Las Vegas with 13 inches of snow, and the nearby mountains received 20 inches. Sandia Park, on the east side of the Sandia Mountains, received up to 11 inches of snow, the National Weather Service said.

Steve Lewis, a Ski New Mexico spokesman, said Tuesday’s storm was a well timed boost for the state’s ski industry as it prepares for spring break customers.

“It’s like a giant billboard” for the state, Lewis said.