Snow brings traffic woes to El Paso

December 1, 2009 4:10:29 AM PST
Crews planned to work through the night Monday to deice roads after a light snowfall on parts of El Paso stalled traffic and forced the closure of a heavily traveled mountain pass, Texas Department of Transportation officials said. Workers were to focus on a nearly 40-mile stretch of Interstate 10 and 10 to 12 miles of U.S. Highway 54, said TxDOT spokeswoman Blanca Del Valle.

Snow fell in large clumps Monday morning, covering car windows and pilling up on trees and rooftops before being washed away by a steady rain.

National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Novlan said the mix of snow and rain was expected to continue as a storm front moved east across southern New Mexico from southern Arizona. Winter storm warnings were issued for large swaths of southern and eastern New Mexico and West Texas east and north of El Paso into Tuesday.

Novlan said parts of the area from southern New Mexico to Hudspeth County, just east of El Paso, could see between three and eight inches of snow in 24 hours.

The early part of the storm that hit around midday Monday prompted highway officials to close parts of Trans-Mountain Highway, a state road also known as Loop 375 that connects El Paso's far west side to the northeast and parts of Fort Bliss.

The snow and chilly temperatures also kept downtown workers indoors for most of the normally busy lunch hour.

Restaurant owner Raul Gonzalez said he assumed his downtown El Paso dining room was largely void of the regular lunch crowd because of the snow. But deliveries to local office buildings kept his kitchen busy and the few folks who did brave the weather got a kick out of the late morning snow storm, he said.

"When it was coming down here it was huge plumes and the people we did have in here were just like, 'wow,"' he said.

But not everyone was impressed.

El Paso County officials sent workers home at noon as snow covered most of downtown and parts of the city east of the Franklin Mountains. Classes continued through the afternoon in the El Paso school district, but officials canceled Monday's after-school activities.

The University of Texas-El Paso also closed about 2:30 p.m. Officials said classes were expected to resume Tuesday.

The National Weather Service predicted snow and a wintry mix of snow, sleet and rain were expected to move into the South Plains, Concho Valley and Edwards Plateau on Tuesday.


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