County transforms into winter haven

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Valencia County turned into a winter wonderland Monday as residents were treated to the first snowfall of the season.

Few problems arose from the storm that left more than five inches on the ground.

Brent Ruffner-News-Bulletin photo: Ashley Heaney and Jeffrey Moody make snowballs at Anna Becker Park in Belen on Monday. More than five inches of snow fell in the area.

City, school and public safety officials reported few glitches from the storm and most seemed delighted with a change in the weather.

New Mexico Gas Co. spokeswoman Monica Hussey said there were no gas outages during the storm, but the gas company is keeping an eye out for any problems.

“We’re closely monitoring our system ― its pressures and demands and supplies coming in,” Hussey said.

“At this point, there is nothing that causes us to be alarmed or concerned and if we do see something that concerns us, we will send out an emergency alert.”

Belen Consolidated Schools and Los Lunas Schools District said they experienced no damage to the schools and their surrounding areas due to the snow storm.

“It took us by surprise,” said Belen Superintendent Ron Marquez.

Custodians salted entry ways at Belen High School Tuesday morning and swept snow off sidewalks district wide on Monday.

Both school districts re-opened on Tuesday after schools were closed Monday and had two-hour delays on Tuesday.

Both superintendents said administrators were initially worried school buses wouldn’t start with the change in temperature, but had no problems.

Last week, high winds damaged the metal roof of a walkway at Valencia High School. No other problems were reported at Los Lunas Schools after the snow storm.

On Tuesday, there was a two-hour delay for city employees in Belen due to weather conditions.

One accident was reported during Monday’s snow storm with low visibility and icy roads. A vehicle rolled over along Interstate 25 and the north Belen exit, said Belen Police Chief Dan Robb.

The police chief said the accident was due to the driver driving too fast for the weather conditions.

“People are being very cautious when they’re driving,” Robb said.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation closed down the interstate Monday evening from Mile Marker 191 in Belen all the way down to Las Cruces. State officials said there was black ice along the long stretch of the highway.

The interstate was eventually opened to traffic at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Los Lunas Police Chief Roy Melnick said on Tuesday morning there was a three-car crash on I-25, and a day before, there were three minor crashes from motorists hitting curbs.

Valencia County Sheriff Louis Burkhard said there was a lot of slow-moving traffic, “but nothing out of the ordinary.”

A downed power line caused close to 5,800 residents throughout Valencia County to lose power for almost two hours Monday morning, according to Don Brown, a PNM spokesman.

The inclement weather canceled Waste Management of New Mexico services to customers in Valencia County, Belen and Bosque Farms on Monday, according to a news release.

“The severe weather storm is producing snow and icy conditions on state roads and highways, making driving conditions too dangerous,” the release stated.

Residents will receive services a day later than their normal service day this week.

Waste Management’s Valencia County Regional Landfill was also closed on Monday “due to heavy snow and constricted roads in the area,” the release stated.

The damage left behind by the winter storm should be visible in the next few days as the snow melts, including pot holes and frozen pipes, said Dale Tafoya, director of the Belen water and wastewater departments.

“We won’t notice anything until everything starts thawing out,” he said.

Others around the area embraced the snowfall.

Ashley Heaney of Belen took to Anna Becker Park on Monday.

She went to the park and had snowball fights with friends in the afternoon.

“We get to freeze instead of being hot all the time,” Heaney said.

Belen resident Art Avellano spent some of Monday shoveling snow off his patio and said he planned to barbecue chicken later on that evening. He played in the snow that morning.

“(Barbecuing in the snow) is something you can’t do everyday,” Avellano said. “You hear of people barbecuing in the summer, never in the winter.”

Chris Diaz of Diaz Landscaping has a Christmas tree lot on the corner of Reinken and Main streets.

He said the snow might actually help business.

“Snow puts people in the spirit.”