CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Traffic passes along 21st Street near Hilltop Plaza Thursday morning. Temperatures are expected to stay in the mid to upper 20s throughout the day with snow flurries expected to continue.
By Sharna Johnson and Clarence Plank: Freedom New Mexico
Clovis police responded to 35 weather-related crashes in the city Thursday in a little more than two hours.
Capt. Patrick Whitney said the accident calls started coming in just after 7 a.m. and continued until nearly 10 a.m.
Of the morning crashes, only one had a report of injuries but was not classified as serious.
City travelers took the brunt of the crashes with no wrecks reported in Curry County.
Snow began falling in the area before dawn Thursday with an expected accumulation of up to three inches by today.
Area schools were in session Thursday but many night classes and activities were canceled with several schools saying delay and cancellation decisions would be made at the last minute Thursday night or Friday morning.
Some rural schools released early Thursday out of concern for worsening road conditions. Grady schools let out at 2:45 p.m. and Melrose schools released at 2:45 p.m.
Superintendent Randy Fowler said Portales schools planned a two-hour delay for this morning, unless they notified the public otherwise, due to extreme cold and slick roads.
Junior high basketball games were canceled Thursday, Fowler said.
Susan Lambirth with Elida schools said the school day ended at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
The Elida, Dora and Floyd school systems don’t hold class on Fridays.
Dora schools were in session for a full day, and the boys and girls basketball teams went ahead with a trip to a tournament in Tatum, Superintendent Steve Barron said.
Todd Shoemake, meteorologist from National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said Thursday afternoon there were large snow bands over the area, bringing a chance of lingering snow showers through the night.
Today’s temperatures are expected to stay at or around freezing with a possible high in the low 30s.
Clovis’ Assistant Public Works Director Bill Kshir said crews began working Wednesday night at the first sign of moisture on the roads.
With a progressive strategy that consists of three stages, Kshir said crews started by spreading a salt and sand mixture on bridges, intersections and other hazardous areas, then moved to high traffic corridors in the community.
However, Kshir said dropping temperatures and moisture will lead to the formation of ice even in treated areas, especially as precipitation continues and nightfall sets in.
“Being that we’re continuing to get precipitation, the salt does create a lower freezing point, but that could refreeze,” he said.
“There will be areas of icing… and we won’t be able to cover them as fast as it’s freezing.”
He said drivers need to continue to be cautious and avoid traveling as temperatures drop and crews will be on standby for reports of problem areas and will be working through the night if needed.
In Portales there were five morning crashes with none reported in Roosevelt County.
Portales Deputy Police Chief Lonnie Berry said a common occurrence in inclement weather is people crashing into stop signs and other markers but not reporting the damage, creating the potential for other wrecks.
He encouraged residents to call and report damaged or missing signs on roadways.
Berry also urged drivers to slow down and allow themselves plenty of time to get where they need to go.
Whitney said drivers need to use extra caution to avoid collisions.
“People need to remember that when there’s snow and ice they must increase their following distance and slow down their speed in order to safely operate their vehicles on the roadways in this kind of inclement weather, as evidenced by the multiple vehicle crashes this morning,” he said.
Clovis’ Zia Elementary School evacuated the building 10:20 a.m. Thursday, sending children into the snowy weather after a false fire alarm sounded.
Fire chief Ray Westerman said there was a bad alarm sensor and the maintenance staff fixed the situation.
A press release from the district said there was no fire or smoke detected and that the alarm went off in the kitchen.
Today’s school closings and delays as of Thursday evening:
• Texico schools — one hour delay
•Clovis — will announce any weather delays via their Web site, www.clovis-schools.org, and parents signed up to for Skyward Family Access will receive an e-mail informing them of any delays or closures.
• Clovis Christian School — Follows Clovis Municipal School’s inclement weather plan.
• Clovis Community College — Will reopen at 10 a.m. Friday. This schedule includes the Health and Fitness Center.
• Eastern New Mexico University, Portales — Will reopen at 10 a.m. Friday.
For information about school closings go to the provided links.
• Clovis: http://www.clovis-schools.org/
• Portales: http://www.portalesschools.com/
• Melrose: http://www.melroseschools.org/home