Late tonight and Friday, snowfall in Quay County could reach 8 inches for the northern sections of the county and as little as 2 inches in the southern half of the county, said National Weather Service officials in Albuquerque.
Forecasters were also predicting wind gusts of up to 45 mph, creating possible blizzard conditions.
Tucumcari could see between 3 and 5 inches of snow beginning about midnight tonight, with snowfall projected to continue through Friday evening, said NWS Meteorologist Daniel Porter.
The swift change in the weather is caused by an Arctic system that has progressed from western Canada into Washington state and was headed directly to our region, Porter said.
"There is an upper low system that will migrate through the four corners of New Mexico today," Porter said Thursday. "Moving along with the system is a cold front. These ingredients will combine to produce significant snow fall for Quay County and northern New Mexico."
The heaviest part of the storm will extend from Raton to Las Vegas along the Interstate 25 corridor, Porter said. The heavy snowfall is predicted to continue eastward into Union County, and Clayton could bring accumulations of a foot of snowfall.
"Anybody who is planning on traveling through that area tomorrow is encouraged to change their travel plans," Porter said.
Porter said snowfall is just part of the hazardous weather being forecast for Quay County. High winds are also expected.
"We are forecasting winds around Tucumcari from 20 to 30 miles per hour with gusts up to 45 mph," Porter said. "The wind speed will increase as you travel north and could create areas with near blizzard conditions."
The New Mexico Department of Transportation is gearing up for this storm system, said Christina Cordova, public information officer for NMDOT.
"There will be five plow trucks operating on I-40," Cordova said. "The trucks will be operating from Newkirk to the (Tucumcari) airport interchange. Santa Rosa and San Jon crews will also be operating to maintain and keep I-40 open."
Cordova said crews will be operating on two 12-hour shifts and they have stockpiled sand-salt mixtures used to reduce ice accumulation on roads, overpasses and bridges.
An Xcel Energy spokesman said in an email bulletin that, "we are mobilizing our responders and working through out storm restoration plans to ensure that we'll be ready for whatever the storm brings."
Wes Reeves,Xcel Energy Media Relations, said in his email, "If we do experience outages, restoration times might be longer because of the adverse conditions."
Xcel ustomers experiencing an outage, should call the emergency line at 1-800-895-1999 only once.
"We also suggest that customers look out their back windows to see if lines are down on their properties. If trees have blown into the backyard service, this will be important information for us to have," Reeves said.
"We do caution customers to stay away from downed lines, so it is best that customers stay indoors if possible. We also ask customers to keep an eye on their neighbors, especially the elderly and small children, to ensure they are warm and safe in the event of an outage," said Reeves in his email.