Parts of New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado will encounter heavy snow and high winds bringing a nasty blizzard starting with today until Wednesday.
Weather forecasters warn interstate highways and local roads will make driving treacherous, or even impossible, snarling holiday travel plans the days before Christmas.
Up to 18 inches of snow is expected in northeastern New Mexico, the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, southwestern Kansas and southeastern Colorado, which were under blizzard watches or warnings today through Wednesday.
Meteorologist Kerry Jones in Albuquerque, New Mexico is warning people in the region not to be fooled by today’s pleasant weather – the storm is expected to move in quickly and is potentially life-threatening.
“Those are tremendous amounts of snow,” Kerry Jones said.
“Add to that the fact that that snow is going to be blowing, and you’re going to have winds easily in the 40 mph range if not higher, it’s going to be a very ugly, potentially life-threatening situation.
“We try to reserve these blizzard watches for very intense storm systems.”
Much of Kansas will be affected, with the heaviest snowfall from southwestern Kansas, south into the Oklahoma panhandle, south toward Amarillo, Texas, and west into the New Mexico plains.
The intense low-pressure system was circulating south of Yuma, Arizona, today, but was expected to move into southwestern New Mexico overnight.
Rain will develop first, but the system is expected to intensify and turn colder, with snow expected in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, by midday. Up to four inches could fall in the foothills around Albuquerque, and Santa Fe could get up to five inches.
Much heavier snow is expected as the storm moves to the northeast along the Great Divide and into the plains, where winds above 40 mph may create near white-out conditions along highways. Clayton, New Mexico, near the Texas-Oklahoma line, could see the most snow it’s measured in five years, estimated at 15 inches or more. One area outside Amarillo could get up to 18 inches.
There is a 90% chance that Interstate 40 in eastern New Mexico will be closed because of low visibility and blowing snow by late tomorrow afternoon.
Livestock could be affected, so ranchers in the region should take precautions to protect their cattle.
The storm is a fast-mover and is expected to leave the region by midday Tuesday. But temperatures will stay in the 20s and 30s so the snow won’t melt quickly, and a weaker storm that could move into New Mexico Tuesday will likely follow the same general track.