- Associated Press - Saturday, March 1, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Rain and snow finally came to drought-stricken New Mexico on Saturday, providing little relief to what has been a dismally dry winter.

Light showers picked up across northern and western New Mexico after starting to trickle in the night before, the National Weather Service said.

The highest amounts of rain so far are in Luna and Gallup, both of which received nearly a half-inch, meteorologist Jason Frazier said. The city of Albuquerque has only seen a sprinkling, but the rainfall is heavier toward the Sandia Mountains, he added.

“We’re excited to even see that trace, and we’re hopeful to get a lot more,” Frazier said.

There are winds of between 50 and 55 mph across the southern and eastern parts of the state, he said.

Snow is slowly developing in the northern mountains, but it will be isolated to the more elevated peaks, forecasters said.

Snow has been lighter because of the warmer temperatures, Frazier said. But the agency expects to see more snow accumulate as temperatures drop late Saturday and Sunday. As much as 18 inches could come, but only for very high, isolated mountain peaks, Frazier said.

Because of the winter weather, Western New Mexico University’s softball games against Adams State and Fort Lewis will be played Sunday and Monday in Durango, Colo., where heavy snow is also expected.

Still, water managers say the storm is not expected to boost snowpack levels, which are now far below normal. The National Resource Conservation Service said in February that the snowmelt runoff from the mountains is expected to be “less than average” to “significantly less than average” because the region has not had the needed snow and is still suffering from a persistent drought.

Runoff forecasts range from about 70 percent of average near the border with Colorado to around 30 percent on the Rio Grande entering the Elephant Butte Reservoir and the Jemez and Mimbres rivers, the agency said.

“Snowpacks are abysmal at this point,” Frazier said. “Even this won’t get them back to normal levels for this time of year. But it’s a start. We wish we could keep this going and have more storms like this.”

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