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New Mexico still struggling with cold weather

By Tim Korte

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Feb. 4 2011 5:31 p.m. MST

New Mexico Gas employees take pressure readings at a gas meter on the southwest corner of Old Pecos Trail and Cordova, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011 in Santa Fe, N.M.. Tens of thousands of people across New Mexico were without natural gas service Thursday, prompting Gov. Susana Martinez to declare a state of emergency for the entire state.

The Santa Fe New Mexican, Clyde Mueller, Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As temperatures warmed to near freezing levels Friday, authorities continued to monitor natural gas flows during a dangerous deep freeze that again closed schools and government agencies around New Mexico.

Authorities urged residents to turn thermostats down by 10 degrees to help save energy.

"If you could keep your thermostats down, if you could help conserve hot water, that's only going to help the situation," Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said at a news conference.

The good news was that after some communities reported overnight temperatures as low as 36 below zero in Angel Fire earlier this week, the daytime temperature was expected to climb 10 to 25 degrees in most areas, reaching into the low 30s across most of New Mexico.

Forecasters predicted weekend highs that might feel balmy when the temperature reaches the mid-40s.

That should comfort an estimated 32,000 residents in towns like Bernalillo, Placitas, Espanola, Taos, Questa, Red River and parts of Albuquerque, Silver City and Alamogordo, where natural gas service was disrupted by shortages.

Officials said service should be restored in Alamogordo, Bernalillo and Placitas by Saturday, and in Tularosa and La Luz by Sunday. Residents of Espanola, Taos, Questa and Red River should see serviced restored by Monday.

About 400 technicians planned to begin working through neighborhoods to re-light furnaces.

There were no reports of weather-related injuries or deaths.

New Mexico Natural Gas Co. officials said Friday morning they didn't anticipate additional disruptions. A state of emergency, declared Thursday by Gov. Susana Martinez, remained in effect.

State emergency management officials said El Paso Electric Co. planned to conduct rolling electrical blackouts in Dona Ana County until Friday evening in an effort to protect the area's electrical grid but spokeswoman Jodi McGinnis Porter said elsewhere the grid was stable.

Nine emergency shelters were set up across New Mexico, but Porter said only 27 residents took advantage of the offer to leave their homes Thursday night.

Schools closed again Friday in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe, and the University of New Mexico shut down through Sunday. Non-essential state government agencies were closed, along with government offices in Santa Fe County, Dona Ana County and other communities.

Los Alamos National Laboratory also closed.

Water authority officials in Albuquerque reported a backlog of more than 300 calls related to burst water pipes.

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