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Storm strands hundreds, causes massive traffic jam

Story Highlights

• NEW: Snow strands hundreds in New Mexico, officials said
• NEW: CNN affiliate editor says thousands may be stuck
• NEW: Weather caused 25-mile long traffic jam
• NEW: Local and state governments are sharing road clearing equipment
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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (CNN) -- Icy roads and snow that stranded hundreds of vehicles overnight caused a massive 25-mile traffic jam on a section of an interstate east of Albuquerque Sunday afternoon, a state spokesman said.

But conditions were beginning to improve in the evening.

"Things are moving again," said Pahl Shipley, a spokesman for Gov. Bill Richardson who authorized an aerial survey of the roads.

"The toughest thing was having so many people stranded overnight that services like restaurants ran out of food."

A slow-moving snow storm closed long stretches of highway, including Interstate 40, from Albuquerque to Tucumcari and Highway 550 between Bernalillo and Bloomfield, state officials said.

Trucker Jessie Pierson from Wichita, Kansas, was hauling a load of hay to Texas when he was stranded for 5 1/2 hours Saturday.

"Then we were able to move about 12 miles in one hour, and the roads were closed again," Pierson said Sunday afternoon. "We couldn't move again until 11 this morning."

Local and state governments are sharing road clearing equipment, said Carrie Moritomo, spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Management.

Among their challenges were 6- to 8-foot snowdrifts on Interstate 25 between the New Mexico cities of Las Vegas and Raton, Moritomo said.

As of 2 p.m. Sunday (4 p.m. ET), sections of I-25 and I-40 remained closed, she said.

Pierson and his girlfriend took shelter at a truck stop in Clines Corner, New Mexico.

He said snow plows "just piled the snow up so none of us could get out.

"The state wouldn't get out and help anybody and there was no national guard to be seen anywhere we've been," Pierson said "People were getting out and helping each other - we couldn't count on the government for any help."

CNN affiliate KOAT television received numerous calls from travelers stuck on the slick roads, Assignment Editor Jodie Perry said.

"From what we have seen from our helicopter there are possibly thousands of motorists affected by the backup," Perry said.

The editor said roads opened on Saturday after being closed for a storm that happened on Friday.

"Everybody made a mad dash and got stuck as the roads got worse," said Perry.

Icy roads caused a massive traffic jam in Albuquerque, New Mexico, over the weekend.



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