By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
Quay County residents and motorists continue to dig themselves out of a blizzard that dropped 8 to 10 inches of snow overnight.
The snowfall is expected to continue for the Quay County region but will taper off by late Sunday evening, said Annette Mokry, NWS meteorologist.
The snow has created hazardous road conditions, including black ice, high snow drifts and limited visability and has resulted in several roads being shut down, said Yvonne Aragon, New Mexico Department of Transportation spokesperson.
Aragon said as of 2 p.m. Sunday, east-bound and west-bound traffic out of Tucumcari on Interstate 40 has closed. She said the closures also affecting the area are: State Highways 268, 252, 209, 469 and 278.
An emergency shelter has been set up at the First Baptist Church in Tucumcari located at 321 East Center Street.
Aragon said US Highway 54 from Tucumcari to the Texas state line is open but roads are snow packed and icy. She said the blizzard caused drifts, creating extreme hazardous driving conditions.
On Saturday, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez issued a news release urging “absolutely no travel” in the state’s hardest-hit counties, which include Curry, De Baca, Roosevelt and Quay.
Aragon said in preparation of the dangerous road conditions including black ice and drifting snow, DOT crews began preparing their plowing equipment for maintaining the road in advance of the storm. She said in Quay County there will be 16 plows in continuous operation by DOT trying to keep the roads passable and safe for travelers.
DOT staffers in Tucumcari, San Jon, Nara Visa and Ragland will rotate in 12-hour shifts during the storm, Aragon said.
Aragon said the DOT crews out plowing, salting and sanding bridges and road ways are urging motorists to reduce speed and keep 50 feet back from plows. She said this request is for the safety of the motorist in case the plow has to make a sudden stop.
In preparation for the predicted region-wide blizzard, Xcel Energy has mobilized an outage restoration team of 300 personnel to respond to possible service interruptions around its Texas-New Mexico service area, said Wes Reeves, Xcel spokesperson.
Reeves said at 2 p.m., today there were 14,200 customers without power across our Texas-New Mexico service area. He said close to 11,745 were in the Clovis district, where treacherous conditions have slowed movements. Since the beginning of the storm on Saturday, Xcel has had almost 30,000 customers affected by service interruptions at one time or another, Reeves added.
Reeves said all of Xcel’s available personnel are involved in restoration efforts though weather conditions are not anticipated to improve until Monday, so more outages are possible. He said winter storm outages can sometimes take longer to restore because of difficult travel conditions. He said if the outages occur, Xcel can not provide an estimated restoration time until the storm has subsided.