Accumulations are expected to range from about an inch in Farmington to a foot or more in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado.
The storm should move in quickly Friday, peaking midday and Friday night, before leaving the area. Snow levels could drop to 4,000 feet.
“Once it gets down to southern California, it will move very rapidly eastward across Arizona and start knocking on the door of western New Mexico,” said Tim Shy, senior forecaster for the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.
The storm’s arrival would mark a relief from a remarkably dry late fall in the Four Corners. Most of San Juan County is in severe drought, with a small area near the Arizona border in extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“Moisture is very welcome, and that’s the hidden prize that comes with all this,” Shy said.
Regional supervisors at the New Mexico Department of Transportation met Thursday to plan their response to the storm.
“We’re feeling very prepared for this event,” said Patricia Wolff, public information officer for District 5, which includes northwest New Mexico.
Snow plow drivers will place a high priority on U.S. Highway 550, U.S. Highway 64, U.S. Highway 491 and New Mexico Highway 516.
“If there’s a huge storm, we do have to prioritize what we cover and we do get those main thoroughfares open first,” Wolff said.
Drivers are urged to be stay back from snowplows and to pass carefully.