NM ends year with welcomed blanket of snow

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A thin layer of snow blanketed parts of New Mexico on Monday to wrap up what has been one of the driest and warmest years on record for the state.

Snow fell along Interstate 25 near the Colorado border through midday, keeping state highway crews busy spreading salt and cinder to ease what had started out as a treacherous day of travel for some.

Difficult driving conditions were reported early along parts of I-25 and along Interstate 40 in the east. At Pino's Truck Stop in Las Vegas, N.M., employees said the parking lot was full of drivers who didn't want to chance the snow-packed and icy conditions being reported at Raton Pass and near Glorieta outside of Santa Fe.

The sun peeked out from behind the clouds by the afternoon, clearing the roads and leaving behind only frigid temperatures.

"When I came in at 5:30 this morning, I couldn't even see," Deborah Montano said of her hour-and-a-half commute through the snow to Clines Corners, a popular rest stop along I-40. "But it's dry now, like it never even happened."

That's been the story with most of the storms to cross New Mexico this year. And forecasters with the National Weather Service say the latest one — while giving a much needed boost to snowpack in the higher elevations — has done little to break the state's unfavorable weather trends.

Meteorologist Jennifer Palucki said 2012 has been the warmest and second-driest year on record for the state. And the New Year's Eve storm brought too little precipitation to make a difference, she said.

"Despite our little cold snap here at the end of December, it's not going to change things," Palucki said during a weather briefing Monday.

About 8 inches of snow were reported Monday in Clayton in northeastern New Mexico and another 8 inches fell at El Morro National Monument in western New Mexico.

Santa Fe received as much as 4 inches, while Albuquerque got only a trace.

Still, moisture levels in the mountains are slightly better than last week thanks to the storm, forecasters said.

Palucki summed up what most New Mexicans are hoping for with the start of the new year: "I wish it would snow instead of just be cold."

There could be some spotty snow and rain showers on New Year's Day as a weak disturbance moves into New Mexico from eastern Arizona, but forecasters say New Mexicans can expect mostly cold temperatures. Some will range from 10 to 20 degrees below normal.

State transportation officials said driving conditions had improved by Monday afternoon, but they were warning travelers that the wet roads could become slick with the cold temperatures.