- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Severe weather and large hail caused multiple car wrecks in northern New Mexico on Thursday, as a storm system began its path through the state and is expected to linger through Memorial Day weekend.

The National Weather Service said the hail struck Las Vegas, New Mexico, and snarled traffic along Interstate 25, forcing authorities to temporarily close part of the highway. No injuries were reported.

Meanwhile, eastern New Mexico, especially around Clovis, remained under a slight risk for severe storms thanks to a system that reportedly brought quarter-size hail and damaging 60 mph winds.

In addition, the Sandia, Manzano and Sangre de Cristo mountain chains in central New Mexico were expected to experience scattered thunderstorms.

Sporadic thunderstorms are expected to continue Friday, and officials fear that means drought-stricken areas may get lightning that could spark wildfires.

New Mexico has experienced record-setting fire seasons during two of the last three years, and land managers are worried this summer could set another record given the dry conditions. The state has been battered by drought and persistently high fire danger in recent years.

The human-caused Signal Fire, burning in southwestern New Mexico and the state’s largest current fire, is 90 percent contained as of Thursday, officials said. It started burning in grass and timber about 10 miles north of Silver City on May 11.

The severe weather is expected to continue Saturday afternoon and evening, with possible hail along the central mountain chain, forecasters said.

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