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Storm leads to closures, impacts travel

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Snow covers ornamental grass and the John Chisum sculpture Tuesday morning in Pioneer Plaza in downtown Roswell.

A mixture of freezing rain and snow struck Chaves County Tuesday, leading to dangerous travel conditions, vehicle accidents and the closure of some city and county offices.

After snowfall throughout Tuesday morning and temperatures that plummeted into the 20s, roads became treacherous.

Brian Guyer, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said an additional 2 to 5 inches of accumulation was expected Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday.

Late Sunday a winter storm warning was issued by the National Weather Service for much of southeastern New Mexico. The warning is scheduled to last until 6 p.m. tonight.

Poor visibility caused by fog and streets glazed in black ice made travel hazardous, with the New Mexico Department of Transportation warning on its website of packed snow and ice on key travel routes such as U.S. 285, U.S. 70 and U.S. 380.

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Crews with the city road department had been bracing for the snow and low visibility since Monday afternoon and into the night, with a concentration on intersections, Todd Wildermuth, public information officer for the city of Roswell, said Tuesday.

Even so, Wildermuth said, crews had noticed the buildup of icy patches on roads and urged motorists Tuesday to limit travel.

The Roswell Police Department did not receive any calls about vehicle accidents overnight Monday, but had responded to six accidents between 7:30 a.m. and noon Tuesday. Three of those consisted of a vehicle rear-ending another, while another resulted in minor injuries.

Wildermuth though said that as of Tuesday morning he did not have information if weather played a role in any of those accidents.

Beyond Roswell city limits the inclement weather did cause some vehicles to slide off the road.

Charles Yslas, Chaves County undersheriff, said deputies were inundated with calls Tuesday morning of multiple vehicle accidents, as far south on U.S. 285 as the county line, all the way to areas north of Roswell. Only minor injuries were reported.

In one instance a non-commercial trailer had flipped over at about 11 a.m. north of Roswell and past the bypass. No one was injured.

Elsewhere there were reports of vehicles veering off the road or colliding with other objects.

The Hagerman Police Department in a post on its Facebook page Tuesday stated they had responded to numerous reports of crashes and requests for assistance from motorists. However no other details were provided.

Justin Powell, chief of Dexter Fire & Rescue, said that as of 4 p.m. Tuesday his department had not received any calls about accidents, but that snow was growing heavier in the late afternoon hours.

The weather conditions prompted some city services in Roswell to close, such as the aquatic portion of the Roswell Recreation and Aquatic Center and the Roswell Municipal Court.

Roswell Transit suspended all its side routes, but continued to operate one bus on Main Street throughout the day.

In an effort to provide the homeless with shelter from the snow, individual volunteers and volunteer groups also partnered with the city to open a space at the Roswell Adult Center at 807 North Missouri Avenue.

Wildermuth stated in an email the Adult Center would be open to individuals without a place to stay from Tuesday night at 6 p.m. until about the same time Thursday. Wildermuth said anyone interested in helping out the homeless at the Adult Center should contact Joel Wood at 575-201-9399.

Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, as a measure to protect its staff, sent non-essential personnel home Tuesday afternoon, according to Brooke Linthicum, the hospital’s marketing director.

Hours of operation were also reduced for many county departments. One post on the county’s Facebook page Tuesday morning stated county departments would operate on a two-hour delay.

Later, it was announced those same offices had closed early at 3 p.m.

Magistrate and Fifth Judicial District Courts in Chaves County were also closed. A sign posted on the door of the 400 North Virginia Avenue courthouse Tuesday said the courthouse was closed due to weather.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301 or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.