A second day of thick, wet snow stranded travelers along major New Mexico highways on Tuesday and shut down the town of Roswell, where so much snow all at once is an alien presence.
The National Guard was sent out with all-terrain vehicles to help clear major highways, and Gov. Gary Johnson declared a state of emergency for counties in the southeast, opening the door to disaster relief money.
Nearly a foot of snow brought travel to a halt in Roswell, better known as the place where believers insist an alien spaceship crashed 50 years ago. A foot of snow is about as much as Roswell gets in an entire year.
Snow stopped falling at about 8 a.m., but roads in and out of Roswell were still closed by midday and truck stops overflowed with snowbound truckers.
Bill Scaff of Tempe, Ariz., was heading from Ohio to Los Angeles with a flatbed truck and tried to make an end run around the snow by dropping down through Texas to Roswell.
“I decided I would try the southern route and it was just as bad or worse than over there,” he said from Price’s Truck Stop.
“We’ve got a mess,” said truck stop employee Thea Bass.
The heavy snow also pulled down power lines in Roswell, leaving many people in the dark or without heat in the city of about 48,000 people. The mercury fell to 30 degrees at Roswell, which sits on the Pecos River at an elevation of about 3,700 feet.
“We were too shorthanded to go out and check on all of the elderly people without electricity,” said Becky Hamner, a Chaves County sheriff’s administrator. “The sheriff’s posse worked all night rescuing who they could.”
The storm headed eastward during the afternoon, spreading more snow across the Plains from the Texas Panhandle into Kansas. The Oklahoma Panhandle had 8 inches by early afternoon, and thunderstorms resulted in flash flood watches for parts of Texas and Louisiana.
The storm had piled up as much as 20 inches of snow Monday on northern Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff and on top of Mount Lemmon outside Tucson in the south.
And forecasters warned that yet another storm would probably hit the Southwest tonight.
The snow made travel difficult across large parts of New Mexico.
Most of the 170-mile stretch of Interstate 40 from Albuquerque to the Texas state line was shut down, along with several state highways through mountains and the high desert.
Farther west, numerous accidents slowed travel on I-40 across northern Arizona, with some people delayed five to six hours east of Flagstaff.
In southwestern New Mexico, a 60-mile stretch of I-25 from Socorro to Truth or Consequences was closed during the night.