Weather experts continue to say New Mexico is going to get hit with a one-two punch of winter storms that will likely turn Black Friday into White Friday — and might bring a lot of freezing rain, bone-chilling winds and high-running waterways.
At a time when most people harbor goals of traveling to unite with loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving, meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque said travel over the next few days will get dicey.
“Things are going to be hazardous, period,” said meteorologist Daniel Porter.
Storm one is coming in from the Baja California Peninsula and is likely to land in the state between Wednesday afternoon and evening, bringing a potential of snow and freezing rain “along the east-central mountain chain and along the Interstate 40 corridor southward,” Porter said.
That storm might simply brush by and below Santa Fe. But even a tenth of an inch of freezing rain, as predicted, can create ice that “will wreck havoc on trees and cars,” meteorologist Jennifer Shoemake said.
California also will deliver the second storm, sending it through Arizona and into New Mexico sometime Thursday.
“This will be much more of a heavy snow type of event,” Porter said, impacting travel along Interstates 25 and 40, as well as several highways in the east-central and southeastern portions of the state.
While snow levels will be higher above the 8,000-foot range, Santa Fe could receive 4 to 6 inches from that second storm, according to the forecast.
Even as the two storm systems move out, they will leave enough wet residue to set streams and rivers running a little higher and faster than usual, said senior hydrologist Royce Fontenot of the National Weather Service.
For those planning to camp or hike, “backcountry streams could become impassable,” he said. “And that’s cold rain going into the snow, so the water is going to be cold. Anything trying to ford a river or stream will risk hypothermia.”
The second system will move out Friday night. Temperatures won’t warm up, however, and Saturday will bring wind gusts “as high as 50 miles per hour,” Porter said.
Temperatures during the day Wednesday through Sunday will range form the mid-30s to low 40s, according to the forecast.
Shoemake said things will become “much quieter” Sunday and Monday, with “slowly warming temperatures.”
The meteorologists were unwilling to predict whether the region will experience a White Christmas this year.
“People want to know if Santa is going to be able to slide off the snow, but it’s too early to tell,” Porter said.