Unknown to most of you and to the rest of the world, New Mexico is recovering from what may well be its worst snowstorm of the last 100 years. I was fortunate to be able to get out of the state on schedule, but not without some difficulty. The highway between Albuquerque and Clines Corners remained extremely icy and had created a massive traffic jam backing up across town almost to the Rio Grande by the time I left on Monday morning, which forced me to take the alternate route via I-25 and down a state highway to reconnect with I-40 east of the mess.
Northeasterners and Midwesterners will probably chuckle that a mere foot or two feet of snow can cripple most of an entire state for a full weekend, but for us this was the Great Blizzard of ‘06. In the high desert, much of it well over a mile above sea level in elevation, the snowfall made road travel extremely treacherous. Thus it was that both interstates were closed for at least two days, and I-40 east of Albuquerque was shut down from Friday until Monday with only a brief reopening Saturday. Not that you would have heard peep about it from NPR or The Weather Channel or any news network. The old “one of our fifty is missing” joke wears a little thin when mild rainstorms in Philadelphia merit more attention on national weather news than the paralysis of an entire state. Colorado was not ignored in this way, perhaps because it had already suffered such a powerful and overwhelming storm the week before. But the same problems that plague our neighbours in Colorado are also plaguing New Mexico: like their ranchers, ours are cut off and their herds are getting stuck in snowdrifts; as in Colorado, the National Guard has been mobilised to help bring supplies to those who are stranded; as it is in eastern Colorado, travel around much of northern and central New Mexico has been virtually impossible for days. With a few exceptions, the county governments back home did an effective job recovering from the storm, and the city government of Albuquerque should be commended on getting the city up and running almost immediately. The state did fairly well in responding to the storm. What will remain with me from the last few days is the complete and utter indifference of people outside the state about what happens in New Mexico. I realise there aren’t that many New Mexicans, but it might be worth mentioning when one of the major commercial corridors in America gets shut down by a freakishly large snowstorm in a desert state that typically sees less than 10″ of precipitation in an entire year.