2011-12-06 / World

Winter storm blasts New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N. M. ( AP) — A severe winter blast has struck most of New Mexico, closing schools and shutting down major highways across the state.

Motorists sought emergency shelter overnight as state officials closed both directions of Interstate 40 from Albuquerque to Gallup — part of the historic Route 66 — after blowing snow caused near-zero visibility.

Authorities also shut down Interstate 10 in the southern part of the state, from the Texas line to the Arizona border, because of heavy snow and icy road conditions.

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 today, KOB-TV reported nearly 200 active closings and delays.

Julia Pardue, a front desk attendant at the Super 8 hotel in Grants, said a number of stranded motorists got rooms for the rest of the day after Interstate 40 was closed rather than wait for the highway to reopen.

“A lot of people just didn’t want to be on the roads,” she said.

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 two-foot snow drifts.

Kerry Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said most of the heavy snowfall ended by Monday afternoon and just around an inch or two was expected throughout most of New Mexico.

Jones said residents also should expect “bitter cold” weather with temperatures 15 below zero in some parts. Jones said temperatures will gradually warm throughout the week.

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