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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A day after blizzard conditions stranded motorists overnight and caused accidents that killed at least four people in New Mexico, highway crews Tuesday were mopping up and getting pre-holiday traffic back on the roads before another system moves into the state Thursday.
Forecasters said the next storm isn't likely to be as severe as the system that caused rare blizzard-like conditions Monday. But they said it could bring enough snow to once again severely impact Christmas travelers on the Interstate 25 and Interstate 40 corridors Thursday and into Friday.
Monday's storm closed I-25 from Santa Fe to Colorado and I-40 from just east of Albuquerque to Texas as 10 to 15 inches of blowing snow created drifts up to 7 feet in some areas, officials said.
Most major thoroughfares were expected to be open by late Tuesday afternoon, although dangerous spots remained.
"We are just kind of mopping up and things are starting to move," Paul Gray of the New Mexico highway department said during a morning call with the weather service and emergency officials from around the state.
State police spokesman Robert McDonald said the only serious accident he knew of occurred late Monday on U.S. Route 60/84 east of Melrose in Curry County, where authorities say a head-on collision between a pickup truck and a car killed four people and injured two others.
With the next storm Thursday, much of the northern half of the state will see 2 to 6 inches of snowfall, "not the 10 to 15 inches we saw the last 24 hours" in northeast New Mexico, National Weather Service meteorologist Kerry Jones said Tuesday.
The other good news, he said, is that the system will bring more powdery snow, which is less treacherous on roadways.
Powder is also much more desirable for New Mexico ski areas, who — thanks to a steady stream of winter systems that have moved across the state this month — are celebrating one of their best early seasons in years.
Angel Fire got a foot of new snow with the Monday's storm, but Taos and Santa Fe were mostly skipped over. All of the ski resorts should see nice powder with Thursday's front, Jones said.