Frosty awakening for area

Kevin Wilson

Up to half a foot of snow fell in some areas of eastern New Mexico on Monday, most of it coming well after local schools had made the decision to cancel classes.

Most area schools also closed on Monday. Clovis schools, Floyd schools, Eastern New Mexico University, Clovis Community College and Ninth Judicial District offices made an early call to close Tuesday, as well.

A call to Portales school officials was not immediately returned.

Cannon Air Force Base kept up standard operations Monday, but decided to initiate delayed reporting on Tuesday. There was no standard delay time, with commanders determining appropriate times based on mission needs.

Lisa Spencer of Clovis Community College said the school is currently in its finals week, and said students should contact their instructors via email to find out how cancellations will affect their classes.

National Weather Service meteorologist Amanda Martin said the Clovis-Portales area can expect Tuesday’s high in the low 20s with an evening low of 11 and lighter snowfall in the evening.

Steve Kersh of KVII-TV in Amarillo said unofficial totals put anywhere from 2 to 6 inches in Clovis locations and 1 to 3 inches in Portales. No official snow results from the NWS were available at press time.

The storm system will begin to clear on Wednesday, she said.

Portales Emergency Management Director Keith Wattenbarger said emergency personnel were well prepared to deal the wintry conditions.

“We’re looking at some seriously cold weather tonight,” Wattenbarger said Monday morning. “As it stands right now, we’re putting ourselves on standby for anything that today might give us. If something does come up, we’ll be available to deal with it.”

Wattenbarger said if people don’t have to travel, they shouldn’t. The most important factor is people exercising common sense when they go out, he said.

“Make sure there is something in your car that can sustain you if your car breaks down,” Wattenbarger said.

He said roads get more icy west of Portales.

Lt. Mark Cage of the Portales Police Department said mid-afternoon that the only accident of note was minor a one involving a city trash truck. But he said he and the department would be concerned about the conditions being much worse at night.

“We have some people slipping and sliding around out there this morning but we’ve not had any significant spike in vehicle accidents,” he said. “We would ask that people please be extra careful in the construction.”

The county was a different story, according to Roosevelt County Chief Deputy Sheriff Malin Parker.

“We are having severe road conditions. My guys have been going from wreck to wreck, roll overs, slide offs, traffic crashes,” Parker said. “All roads in and out of town are very icy, very slippery, so we advise everybody to not travel at all if they don’t have to. Stay stationary. Stay off the roads. Very hazardous conditions.”

At 3:45 p.m., Parker said deputies had responded to about 20 accidents.

“It’s been a steady flow. We’ve got about five right now,” Parker said. “We’ve had no major injuries yet.”

Parker said driving in the icy weather is more dangerous on the highway, because speeds are higher, snow is drifting and on longer stretches of highway, people become complacent.

Clovis Police Capt. Patrick Whitney said officials responded to four minor traffic accidents in the morning with no injuries. But when contacted in the early afternoon, Whitney said that total had shot up to a few dozen, “And it’s going to get worse tonight.”

Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman said fire and ambulance usage was light in the afternoon. He said people should exercise caution with space heaters, and even be careful when stepping out of a vehicle due to slick surfaces.

Clovis Emergency Management Director Ken De Los Santos said he arrived at work about 7:45 a.m. Monday and was pleased to see drivers were taking their time.

“Nobody was spinning out, people were driving smart,” he said.

Blowing snow is one reason people should stay home if they can, he said. “It’s already an issue in town,” he said, “and I’m sure it’s worse out in the open spaces.”

De Los Santos said he saw city sand trucks working to keep intersections from icing over and he noticed county officials moving snow off the courthouse parking lot.

“And I noticed Taqueria Jalisco (on west Seventh in Clovis) clearing their drive-through. “People are going to want hot food,” he said.

That wasn’t the case at Java Loft in Clovis. Employees said people just weren’t braving the roads.

“There were three of us here this morning,” barista Brandon Rivera said. “One of us could have handled it.”

By the afternoon, the coffee shop had three employees behind the counter doing inventory work, three customers inside and a note on the front door that read closing time was 3 p.m. — seven hours early.