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Northern New Mexico gets early blast of winter

November 13, 2018

A short, quick winter blast Sunday night and Monday morning closed Santa Fe schools, brought a foot of snow to the ski area and departed the city with a frigid reminder that there’s still such a thing as winter, even in a time of drought.

Santa Feans woke up Monday to between 1½ and 3 inches of snow, prompting Santa Fe Public Schools and Santa Fe Community College to cancel classes, in part due to concerns about roads that in some places were slick and treacherous.

District spokesman Jeff Gephart said the low temperatures — which fell to 22 degrees early Monday morning — played a major role in the schools’ decision.

The snow, he said, froze into “an absolute sheet of ice. … It wasn’t just the snow, it was the other conditions as well.”

On Sunday evening, Gephart said the district’s transportation department drove throughout the area, from Eldorado to Tesuque, judging road conditions. Gephart said officials initially had planned a two-hour delay based on feedback from the department, but were forced to re-evaluate early Monday morning.

“The size of the district is such that in some areas there might not be as much snow, but to isolate just the kids in that area … it’s an impossible task,” he said. “We didn’t want to risk any injuries, or worse.”

Gephart said the possibility of snow-piled driveways and icy neighborhoods was not worth the risk.

“We transport over 8,000 students daily on buses,” said Gephart, adding that kids also walk to school or are dropped off by family members. “The safety of the kids comes first. Providing education opportunities — I don’t want to say it’s secondary — but we want to make sure our students and staff are safe first.”

Perhaps because Monday was a holiday, traffic was lighter than normal during the morning, but Santa Fe police noted an increase in snow-related accidents — most of the fender-bender variety — during the commute.

Lt. Judah Montano said city police already had responded to four or five crashes “in a row” before noon on Monday. No major injuries were reported.

Nevertheless, auto-repair shops didn’t see much of an increase in business. If anything, some said business may have slowed.

At Ben’s Automotive Services, those who were scheduled to come in to the shop had to cancel their appointments, said its manager, Delores Rios.

“They call and say they couldn’t get out of their driveway,” she said.

The smiles, it seemed, belonged to those who have skiing on their minds. Ski Santa Fe reported 12 inches of snow — great news for those who remembered the bone-dry winter of 2017-18. The ski hill will officially open for the season on Thanksgiving Day.

Meteorologists say this may only be the beginning, with an El Niño system predicted this winter. Still, the intensity of the storm in New Mexico, for mid-November, was unusual.

“Normally we don’t see something like this until early December,” said Roger Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.

Several areas of Northern and Eastern New Mexico saw significant snowfall, with areas south of Santa Fe experiencing about 4½ inches and Glorieta getting more than eight.

Although temperatures are expected to rise throughout the week, forecasters expect Tuesday morning will be frigid, with a record low of about 9 degrees. The previous record was set in 2014, at 13 degrees. After a bone-chilling start, Tuesday’s high is expected to reach the mid-30s, with temperatures getting to the mid-40s by later in the week.

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