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Snow piles up on New Mexico

/ Source: The Associated Press

A slow-moving storm dumped about 3 feet of snow on parts of northern and eastern New Mexico, closing major highways, schools and some government offices Tuesday.

“I’ve lived here for all my life, and this is one of the worst as far as how quick it (snow) accumulates,” said Steve Lucero, owner of a tow truck service at Las Vegas, where 2 feet of snow had fallen since the storm developed Monday.

The National Weather Service reported that Cowles, northwest of Santa Fe, got the most snow from the storm — 38 inches. Gascon, a village in northern New Mexico, and Mineral Hill, near Las Vegas, each had received 34 inches as of Tuesday.

Gov. Bill Richardson declared a state of emergency in seven counties Tuesday.

New Mexico was hit by a cold front that blasted in from the north and potent, upper-level low pressure that came from northern Arizona and southern Utah, said Kerry Jones, a meteorologist with the weather service in Albuquerque.

Snow also fell across much of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. Texline, Texas, measured around a foot of snow by midday, but no roads were closed.

Packed snow glazed roads throughout northern and eastern New Mexico.

“Just as quick as they clean them, they get snowpacked again,” Lucero said. He said one of his own tow trucks got stuck trying to pull a tractor-trailer rig out of a ditch.

Sections of Interstate 40, New Mexico’s primary east-west highway, and Interstate 25, the main north-south artery, were closed east and north of Albuquerque.

Rows of tractor-trailer rigs queued up at Las Vegas, while other motorists scrambled to find hotel rooms. The Red Cross opened a shelter in Las Vegas for travelers who couldn’t find a vacancy late Monday.

State offices were closed Tuesday for nonessential employees in areas hit by snow, Mahesh said.

Schools closed because of the snow included the University of New Mexico.