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Warmer temperatures forecast for region

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FARMINGTON — Light snow and windy conditions limited visibility to a half mile or so in the Farmington area this morning. By noon the cloud cover had mostly dissipated, and roads were clearing rapidly.

The storm was the product of what the National Weather Service in Albuquerque termed a vigorous upper-level disturbance that made its way rapidly across the state. After a relatively balmy day on Sunday, when the temperature hit 52 degrees, Farmington was like much of the rest of the state today.

Temperatures plummeted anywhere from 5 to 15 degrees below normal. Winds were gusting between 40 and 50 mph across much of the state, according to the NWS, with the central and southeastern parts of the state see gusts up to 60 mph.

The temperature remained below freezing for much of the morning, but as noon approached, the snow had stopped, and the mercury was climbing quickly. According to data collected at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center and posted on the organization's website, Farmington received 0.03 inches of precipitation from the storm. The city drew 0.04 inches of moisture during a storm last week, giving Farmington a total of 0.07 inches for February.

The storm presented few problems for drivers in San Juan County. A supervisor at the San Juan County non-emergency dispatch center said the morning commute was mostly normal, although there were a few fender benders and one vehicle was reported rolled over on Piñon Hills Boulevard near the La Plata Highway. But there were no injuries reported from that crash, she said.

The blowing snow and resulting lack of visibility made the drive a little longer for westbound motorists on U.S. Highway 64 between Bloomfield and Farmington around 9 a.m. Traffic in that direction recently was narrowed to one lane to accommodate a widening project. Drivers between County Road 5500/County Road 350 at SunRay Park & Casino and Andrea Drive/County Road 5817 found themselves in stop-and-go traffic for 3 miles, resulting in an approximate 20-minute delay.

On the west side of town, the snow was still falling at mid morning as Crouch Mesa resident Tory Larsen and his white German shepherd Buddy trudged through the fresh powder at Westland Dog Park. Larsen said he and Buddy usually hike their property on the mesa, but Larsen had to drop his wife off at an appointment in Farmington this morning, so he and Buddy were killing time at the dog park as they waited for her to finish.

"He loves the snow," Larsen said.

Larsen said he had taken Buddy out for a walk on the mesa at around 5 this morning before the storm hit, and conditions were very pleasant, with the temperature hovering around 31 degrees. But conditions changed quickly when the upper-level disturbance blew through.

"I thought, 'Hey, this isn't such a good deal,'" Larsen said, laughing. "But he was loving it."

The NWS advisory said warmer weather is expected to return to the state Tuesday and Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's online snowpack summary for the San Miguel, Dolores, San Juan and Animas river basins shows that, as of today, the snowpack is 98 percent of average and 101 percent of median. The region is having a good year in comparison to last year's dry winter, as the current percentage is 275 percent of what was reported on this date a year ago.

The website reports that the region's snowpack normally reaches its peak on April 6.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610.

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