EL PASO, Texas (AP) — West Texas residents were digging out of several inches of snow Friday after a winter storm stranded motorists, delayed businesses and buried El Paso in more than half its average annual snowfall.
The overnight storm was the region's first this season, leaving as much as 10 inches of snow overnight in some areas including Fort Stockton and Terlingua.
Most of the major roadways that were closed late Thursday because of snow and ice had reopened by Friday afternoon, including Interstate 10 from Fort Hancock to Van Horn.
"There were hundreds of people sleeping in their cars in my truck stop and every other place they could find in town," said Cary Robinson, manager at a Pilot truck stop in Van Horn. "We have a Wendy's and it ran out of food."
In El Paso, which averages 6.6 inches of snow annually, 4 inches fell in less than 24 hours. The heavy snowfall covered the usually dirt-brown desert landscape with a thick white blanket.
"We've seen snow in El Paso before, but nothing like this. There is enough snow to play in and it's actually nice outside," Kelly Cano said while with her husband and two children at Memorial Park, which several visitors said is among the few places in El Paso with hills fit for sliding.
"We drove about 30 minutes to get here, but my daughter is enjoying it," Robert Guevara said after descending a smooth slope.
The National Weather Service reports that between 4 and 8 inches of snow fell mountains and foothills, and up to 6 inches elsewhere in the region. But the storm fizzled before reaching northern and central Texas, where only light snow and sleet were reported.
The snowfall in El Paso prompted businesses and schools to send workers home early Thursday and start late Friday.
El Paso City Hall and the University of Texas at El Paso reopened Friday after a delay, and only essential personnel were required to work at Fort Bliss.
El Paso Independent School District also had a delay Friday but it only affected teachers and administrative workers because students were still on vacation. Children could be seen in parks and front yards throwing snowballs and making snowmen.
"It's nice, we don't see this very often. I lived in Wyoming two winters and that is rough," said 73-year-old Ray Flores as he removed snow from his truck Friday morning. "I knew it was coming, I prepared so I don't have to drive today."
Along with Interstate 10, the Texas Department of Transportation reopened U.S. 62-180 after it was closed from El Paso to the New Mexico border for most of Thursday and Friday.