Snowstorm batters Southwest: Holiday travelers brace
Forecasters expect the Southwestern blizzard will start to lose its winter-weather characteristics as it heads east, but not before causing delays Monday in places like Dallas and Houston.
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Meteorologists are calling for a powerful storm to intensify through the day, dumping 6 to 12 inches of blowing, drifting snow. By tonight, travel in places like Liberal, Kan., Dalhart, Texas, and maybe even Amarillo, Texas will be difficult and dangerous.
If there is any good news about the storm, it is that weather forecasters expect it will start to lose its winter-weather characteristics as it heads east. This will make it easier for procrastinators to get to the malls before Christmas. And, it appears the storm will not cause a major disruption of air travel except perhaps some delays later on Monday in places like Dallas and Houston, which could get some thunderstorms.
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“The one fortunate thing about this storm is that is moving right along,” says Tom Kines, a meteorologist at AccuWeather.com in State College, Pa. “By tomorrow it is greatly diminished as far as snow is concerned and as it heads northeast it will lose a lot of its wintery characteristics once it leaves the southern Plains.”
In the meantime, communities in the path of the storm are battening down. Some highways are being shut down, local airports are diverting flights, and state and local highway departments have plows ready to start clearing the snow.
According to local residents in Dalhart, Highway 87 – which connects to Raton, N.M. – has already been shut down. “All the places to stay have already been filled up,” says municipal Judge Coy Gergen in Dalhart, which is expecting about a foot of the white stuff. “We usually get one bad one a year and this looks like it.”
Preston Cooley, an assistant airplane mechanic at BCL Aviation in Dalhart says the storm has kept people from flying. “We’ve had no planes in today,” he says, noting the storm will also probably prevent him from driving to his girlfriend’s house in Colorado.
Blowing snow will be especially difficult on livestock, says Judge Gergen, observing that the area has a lot of feedlots for cattle. “If they are on grass, the only thing you can do is make sure they have feed,” says Gergen. "Get some hay out there.”
One positive aspect of the storm in the region is that it might put some moisture in the soil. That could benefit the winter wheat crop, says Gergen. “As long as the wind doesn’t just blow the snow into the ditches.”