The upcoming winter weather in Quay County should be warmer, milder and drier than last winter's, a National Weather Service meteorologist said.
Kerry Jones, meteorologist with the NWS Albuquerque area office, said this winter marks a transition from El Nino to La Nina weather patterns in the United States.
"(La Nina) is when you have the cooler than average waters in the tropical Pacific that affects the jet-stream patterns and whatnot, so it's not that we don't get any storms during the La Nina winter, we do.
We just don't see them as frequently as we would during an El Nino winter," Jones said.
Fewer storms means less precipitation, Jones said, resulting in drier-than-normal conditions in the late winter and early spring.
Jones said the milder forecasted conditions should not prevent Quay County residents from preparing for severe winter conditions. He said exposure to low temperatures is the leading cause of winter-related deaths in the United States.
"People in Tucumcari, say, on a weekend or something, will take off headed towards Conchas or maybe go into the mountains and they don't plan," Jones said. "You can go from a very good situation mid-day to a situation that's close to a nightmare."
Jones advised winter travelers carry a winter kit in their vehicles. The kit should include blankets and enough extra food and water to provide travelers at least three days' nourishment, he said.
A New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management press release states drivers should always have at least a half tank of gas in their cars during the winter. The release advises drivers also include the following supplies in their car winter kits:
• Windshield scraper
• Small broom
• Battery-powered radio
• Extra batteries
• Snack food
• Extra hat, gloves, and socks
• First-aid kit
• Pocket knife
• Necessary medications
• Tow chain or rope
• Road salt or sand
• Booster cables
• Emergency flares
• Fluorescent flag
Phil Gallegos, a public relations employee with the New Mexico Department of Transportation, submitted the following safety guidelines for driving during winter weather:
Before the Trip
• Winterize your car with fresh antifreeze, a good battery, a properly operating exhaust system and oil that will withstand the rigors of cold weather.
• If possible, avoid driving until the roads are safe and passable. You don't want to slide off the road, and we don't want to plow around disabled vehicles.
• Do a thorough pre-trip inspection of your vehicle, paying special attention to your tires, brakes, windshield wipers and windshield wiper fluid.
During the Trip
• Obey speed limits; don't speed.
• Use common sense, and adjust your speed to suit driving conditions
• Give snowplows plenty of room, and don't pass them.
• Always wear your seat belt.
• Remember that driving is most dangerous when temperatures are near 32 degrees.
• Watch for other vehicles having problems with road conditions.
• Keep mirrors, windows and lights clean; keep your lights on.
• Don't pass other vehicles on or near bridges.
• Keep your fuel tank at least half full.
• If you don't feel comfortable driving, park at the first safe place.
If You're Trapped in Your Car
• Stay in the vehicle. Don't leave to search for help. It's easy to become disoriented and lost in blowing and drifting snow.
• Display a trouble sign. Hang a brightly colored cloth on the antenna.
• Run the engine for about 10 minutes each hour. Run the heater and turn on the dome light only when the vehicle is running.
• Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and open a window slightly for ventilation.
• Clap hands and move your arms and legs occasionally. Don't stay in one position for too long.
• If more than one person is in the car, take turns sleeping.
• Huddle together for warmth.
• Use newspapers, maps and even car mats for added insulation.
For area weather forecasts and information, visit the National Weather Service's Albuquerque website: http://www.weather.gov/abq
For information on area road conditions, visit http://www.nmroads.com or dial NMDOT's road advisory hotline: 511