Lime-sized balls of hail were expected to fall from the sky. Winds powerful enough to overturn a vehicle — even a semitrailer — would sweep across Eastern New Mexico’s interstate highways, forecasters said. And as much of 3 feet of new snow was anticipated in the northern mountains.
Dangerous weather conditions were expected throughout New Mexico beginning Tuesday afternoon and continuing through Thursday night from what forecasters had dubbed a superstorm.
Santa Fe streets were already beginning to flood Tuesday evening.
It’s “probably going to be one for the record books when we talk about severe weather,” meteorologist Kerry Jones of the National Weather Service in Albuquerque said during a Tuesday briefing.
Santa Fe was cast in shades of gray with intermittent rainfall throughout the afternoon Tuesday as thunder cracked.
Yet, forecasters predicted far more dire conditions in the east-central part of the state. Thunderstorms with dangerously high winds — in some places up to 75 mph — were expected to rage into the night. Propelled by forceful gusts, hail ranging between the size of a lime to slightly smaller than a tennis ball could cause serious wreckage in some areas, meteorologists said.
Jones said the powerful winds were expected to unfold throughout Wednesday, ranging from between 35 and 50 mph between Taos and Albuquerque and reaching roughly 80 mph in parts of Eastern and southeastern New Mexico near the cities of Carlsbad, Tucumcari, Clovis and south of Las Vegas.
“These are likely some of the strongest winds we have seen in quite some time,” Jones said. “This is going to be a very intense wind event and something we need to take seriously.”
The weather service was advising travelers in high-wind areas to postpone their plans and avoid east-central New Mexico along Interstate 40, saying people driving from Amarillo to Albuquerque could face headwinds close to 50 mph throughout their trip.
There was a possibility tornadoes could kick up on the plains, too.
Extensive snow also was forecast for the northern mountains and at altitudes above 6,000 feet.
Overnight and into Wednesday, the mountains could get between 2 and 3 feet of heavy, wet snow. This could impact driving conditions at higher altitudes in places like Raton and Glorieta on Wednesday afternoon, Jones said.
However, Santa Fe is not expected to see much impact on its roads.
“Getting snow and building snowpack in March is always a good thing,” Jones said. We “just want to make sure it doesn’t come too fast and we don’t have any avalanche concerns.”
Meanwhile, a sudden drop into a low-pressure zone, known as a “bombogenesis” cyclone often associated with hurricanes, also was expected Wednesday with a stream of moisture arriving in the state moving south to north.
“This is again not going to be your ordinary late-winter, early-spring storm in the Rockies,” Jones said. “This is intense.”