Winter storm packs powerful punch

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Los Alamos reeling from power outages, travel delays

By Carol A. Clark

A massive snowstorm hit town overnight forcing today’s closure of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Los Alamos public Schools.

The start time for Los Alamos County employees was delayed by two hours.

County road crews spent this morning digging the community out from under nearly a foot of snow that began accumulating Monday afternoon.

“We started 12-hour shifts yesterday. We’ve got all our equipment on the streets with the exception of a couple of pieces in maintenance,” Public Works Director Kyle Zimmerman said this morning during an interview from the airport. “It’s so windy that there’s no way anyone could fly in or out.”

A big problem his crews encountered today was with businesses scooping parking lot snow onto county streets. Businesses were informed ahead of time not to do that, Zimmerman said, adding that those business owners were instructed to move the snow back onto their lots.

Another problem he mentioned was children sledding down Quemazon Hill, which he said is an extremely dangerous thing to do because of cars and trucks passing right by that area.

Temperatures dipped after midnight, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Kerry Jones during an interview from his Albuquerque office this morning.

“Los Alamos had a temperature of 34 degrees at midnight that began dropping as the front of the storm hit between 4-5 a.m. today. It was 27 degrees at 9:50 a.m. (today),” Jones said. “We show snow measuring 7-10 inches in town and 18 inches on the top of Pajarito Mountain.”

The National Weather Service maintains a sensor at the Los Alamos County Airport. Peak winds were observed at 10 a.m. today measuring 60 miles per hour.

“Sustained winds were at 41 mph with gusts measuring 50-55 mph.” Jones said.

Those winds wrecked havoc on local power lines overnight. Deputy Utility Manager Raphael De La Torre is responsible for the electrical grid in Los Alamos County.

“It appears around 4:40 a.m. today we started experiencing power outages throughout the Los Alamos area and specifically in North Mesa and Barranca mesa. These outages are a direct result of high winds slapping wires together to Feeder 16, which crosses Pueblo Canyon and provides power to the North Mesa and Barranca Mesa areas,” De La Torre said this morning.

The Department of Utilities re-routed power to those areas from Feeder 15, he said. Sporadic outages affected from several to 20 customers. These smaller sporadic outages were caused by blown fuses, which had to be manually replaced.

“Unfortunately this is to be expected when we have this type of severe weather. We’ve got 10 linemen out working in crews of two across the county. We tip our hats to our linemen who are out working in this weather restoring power to our customers as quickly as possible. We ask our customers to be patient and understanding during this difficult time,” De La Torre said.