New Mexico Driving Advice re: Tomorrow's "Storm"?
January 7, 2016 9:20 PM   Subscribe

Tomorrow night around 6pm, I am driving with my mom from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. My parents are watching the Weather Channel and FREAKING OUT that they think a coming storm is going to make our 1 hour drive impossible or *horribly dangerous.* Is this true?

Hey! So my family is not from New Mexico, but I am in here meeting my mom for a weekend. We don't really know the area at all. We got some cheap flights into ABQ, and planned to drive to Santa Fe for a nice weekend together. She is arriving around 5pm Friday night, we were going to drive to Santa Fe immediately.

We don't know the terrain or some of the areas being called out in these travel advisories from the US Weather Service.

I am a confident snow driver (I've lived in Minnesota) and rented a decent car for the trip. Do we need to be worried about our safety on the roads? Right now my mom thinks we should scrap our (nonrefundable!) hotel reservation in Santa Fe and just camp out in Albuqurque. I think she's nuts.

We would be obliged for a second opinion from a local or someone with area experience!
posted by aoleary to Travel & Transportation around New Mexico (7 answers total)
 
Best answer: I've driven that route, it's not curvy and the elevation change is gentle. Plus there are frontage roads along a lot of it if speed is a problem. The forecast is for an inch of snow, which doesn't seem like that much. I don't know what kind of snow clearing capacity there is in New Mexico, but it seems unlikely you'll need it. The only thing that makes me think twice is that the speed limit is pretty high, so there's a possibility for increased accidents. If it were an unusually dangerous storm, it would be a warning, not just an advisory. Not that you can't get in trouble during a minor winter storm, and I'm a big advocate of letting conditions tell you what to do, but I wouldn't think twice. Especially if you've been driving in snow already this year.
posted by wnissen at 9:37 PM on January 7, 2016


From eyeballing the weather, the ground isn't going to be super cold right now, so it's not likely to stick unless there's a change in weather to sleet or ice.

I'm *not* confident in snow and I would drive in this. If your mom is super freaking out on the day, you can buy a set of mediocre tire chains at Walmart or any AutoZone/O'Reilly's.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:45 PM on January 7, 2016


You've lived in Minnesota? You should be golden, ABQ to Santa Fe is a straight flat drive.
posted by fieldtrip at 10:04 PM on January 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Best answer: The terrain is freeway the whole way, no sharp turns, with long rolling hills, gaining about 2000 ft of elevation over 50 miles. There's only a frontage road in the city. The prevailing speed is high but it's not a stretch that is generally prone to weather problems, unlike I-40 east of ABQ.

It'll be clear by tomorrow night if it goes as forecast. The biggest thing to know in winter weather here is that they don't usually salt or sand the road unless they think it's going to stick around for a while. I try not to go out in storms for that reason, especially when it's rained first (as it is doing tonight) and is icy. I grew up/learned to drive in MN and the problem is basically the other people on the road. However, in this case I think it's not likely to get cold enough to cause any big problems past perhaps the early morning. If I needed to be in Santa Fe at 8am I might be a bit concerned but evening will probably be totally fine. If something changes they'll upgrade to a winter storm warning and possibly close the freeway. But it'd have to be a significant change from what is expected now.

For peace of mind, you can keep an eye on the official NM Roads website. Any travel alerts for sections of highway will show up there.
posted by pekala at 10:32 PM on January 7, 2016


Best answer: If you've lived in Minnesota, the biggest risk will be from other drivers doing stupid shit. Santa Fe drivers in particular are... aggressive at the best of times.

If you want to ease parental anxiety, you might look into whether the train from ABQ to Santa Fe is a viable option at that time. Course then you're in Santa Fe with no car.
posted by PMdixon at 11:51 PM on January 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't stress about I-25 from ABQ to SFE, it's a heavily trafficked very well built road. The only part I'd worry about is La Bajada, the hill climbing out of the valley around 10–15 miles before you get to Santa Fe. It will be abundantly clear as you approach if there is a problem.
posted by Nelson at 9:56 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Y'all are great! Your advice calmed my mother tremendously.

Leaving Albuquerque at around 5 p.m., we were pleasantly surrounded by the lightest possible dusting of snow on the surrounding hills, and an empty, barren freeway. The hourlong drive up interstate 25 to Santa Fe was about as boring, direct, and easy as you could imagine.

Once we got to Santa Fe, there was about a half inch of snow on the road mixed intermittently with some red sand. I had no trouble driving through this in the city. There were some icy spots on the local roads, but it was clear that the other drivers were being exceedingly cautious and going around 15 to 20 miles per hour, max. That suited my mom just fine. She only gripped the handle of the car door a couple of times as we made some very gentle turns at 5 - 10 miles per hour. She was very glad to get to the hotel. :)

Thank you all for your amazing advice, we are so glad to be here now by a cozy fire nestled in snow dusted Santa Fe!

Tomorrow we find that hot chocolate place everybody raves about.
posted by aoleary at 11:04 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


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