Snow strands travelers in Tucumcari

William Thompson:Quay County Sun

Kathleen Heins of Kansas City said she and her husband’s trip to Las Vegas, Nev. was interrupted late Monday evening by low visibility on I-40.

The blowing snow and poor road conditions that closed I-40 from Amarillo to Santa Rosa Tuesday left travelers from all over the country stranded in Tucumcari.

Some decided to spend yet another night in town while others said they were determined to try to find some way to get to destinations east and west.

Heins and her husband they booked an extra night at a local motel Tuesday.

“We’ll probably wait until tomorrow morning to leave,” Heins said. “Even if they open the interstate later today, it’s silly to get out there and take a chance.”

Heins said she and her husband would pass the day reading and maybe hit Pizza Hut for lunch.

The Butler family of Elk City, Okla. was on its way to Arizona for the children’s spring break. They wound up staying an extra night in Tucumcari.

The children’s mother, Karlese Butler, said they would probably see a movie in town Tuesday evening.
“I’ll probably go buy bathing suits for the kids so they can swim in the motel pool,” said Butler. “We’ll probably eat lunch and dinner in town.”

Although travelers are stranded the snow means added business for local motels and restaurants.

Danny Patel, owner of the Microtel Inn on South First Street just off I-40, Tuesday morning was stressful.

“We had 43 of 54 rooms filled Monday night,” Patel said. “We’ll be totally booked tonight (Tuesday).”

As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, just 20 rooms were available at the Microtel Inn, but the front desk phone rang constantly as travelers walked into the lobby to reserve a room.

Jay Patel, owner of the Econo Lodge on East Tucumcari Boulevard said his motel was already at 60 percent capacity by noon Tuesday.

“Many people are staying an extra night,” Patel said.
“Someone was a little upset because they are on spring break and can’t get to where they are going.”

Danny Montoya, general manager of Pizza Hut, was up to his neck in pizza orders during lunchtime Tuesday.

“We’ve had about ten times the business as usual,” Montoya said. “Most of it is deliveries. We’re working on 50 deliveries as I speak.”

Local farmers and ranchers will also benefiting from the late winter snow, said Quay County Ag Extension agent Pete Walden.

“The more moisture we get right now the better our spring will be,” said Walden, who said the water could also help fill Conchas Lake — area farmers’ irrigation source.

Walden said the snow would probably destroy this year1s crop on fruit trees that have bloomed, but probably wouldn’t hurt the wheat crop.

Officials with the State Police said I-40 may be closed today, as well.

Quay County Road Superintendent Larry Moore said work will have to be done in the early morning hours to remove the snow and ice or else they will be slushy underneath.

He said the county1s first priority for clearing roads will be the roads leading to homes of the elderly and ill to provide access for emergency vehicles and medication.

“That’s basically all we can do right now,” he said.