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Below Zero

SFR chronicles chilly scenes of winter

February 9, 2011, 12:00 am

Last week, Santa Feans found out just how menacing those spiky blue parentheses used to symbolize a cold front can be. The state was hit with a one-two punch when cold air traveled down from the northern states and a storm system came across from California, National Weather Service meteorologist Chuck Jones tells SFR. Santa Fe experienced the coldest Feb. 3 in recorded history and tied with a 1963 reading for the coldest weather ever recorded at the Santa Fe Municipal Airport: minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit.


Power outages in Texas caused parts of New Mexico to lose gas service, and Gov. Susana Martinez to close “non-essential” departments to conserve gas. City and county offices followed suit, closing part of the day Feb. 3 and on Feb. 4. Schools were shut down for more than two days. 


Santa Fe identified facilities running on alternative fuel, such as Santa Fe Community College, where people could huddle if the city lost gas services, but the city was one of the few areas that continued to have service. Nevertheless, local hardware stores sold out of heaters, wood pellets and heat tape, and propane provider Ferrellgas experienced a “noticeable” uptick in sales from those with propane heaters, along with some people who thought propane and natural gas were the same thing, according to Ferrellgas spokesman Scott Brockelmeyer. Meanwhile, 911 received calls for broken water lines, road emergencies and “plain and simply cold people,” Santa Fe Assistant Fire Chief Erik Litzenberg tells SFR.


Just as Santa Fe and the rest of the state was starting to resume business as usual, the National Weather Service issued an advisory Feb. 8 for “another round of cold winter weather” with a 25 to 30 degree temperature drop possible, and Martinez announced deployment of National Guard troops and special law enforcement and emergency response units to help Española and Taos get their heat back on in time. But despite Punxsutawney Phil predicting six more weeks of winter, New Mexicans can take heart: The NWS is calling for a “warming trend” beginning Feb. 11.


 

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