What happened to spring? Damp, chilly weather persists across San Juan County

Additional moisture, cold temps in forecast for early next week

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • Unseasonably chilly and damp conditions are likely to persist for a week to 10 days in San Juan County.
  • Recent storms that have hit the area the remnants of a series of atmospheric rivers that have blanketed California in snow.
  • Almost half of San Juan County is now free of any drought or abnormally dry classification.

FARMINGTON — The beginning of spring may be just a few days away, according to the calendar, but it still feels a long way away in San Juan County.

With winter yielding to spring on Monday, March 20, it may seem like it’s time for the cold, gloomy and damp weather that has prevailed across the Four Corners region for the last week and a half to give way to warmer, drier and sunnier conditions. But that isn’t likely to be the case, according to the National Weather Service.

Michael Anand, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Albuquerque bureau, said those unseasonably chilly and damp conditions are likely to persist for a week to 10 days, meaning it could be late March or even early April before more spring-like weather finally arrives.

“You’re going to be well below average this weekend in the Farmington area, for sure,” Anand said about the temperature. “And early next week, there’s going to be another slow-moving storm system. It’s going to be warmer, but we still have a good chance of rain for most of the Four Corners area.”

Anand said a very active storm track has set up off the California coast in the Pacific Ocean, and that is funneling moisture into the American Southwest. Anand said the below-average temperatures and moisture the region has seen over the past several days are the remnants of the series of atmospheric rivers that left many parts of California blanketed in snow.

A pair of geese stroll across the grass near a puddle at Boyd Park in Farmington on March 16 after several days of wet, gloomy weather.

Anand said San Juan County saw daytime high temperatures that were 10 to 15 degrees below normal for much of the week, and he expects those highs to fall to 15 to 20 degrees below normal this weekend.

By the time another storm system arrives in the county late on Sunday or early on Monday, the moisture it carries could even come down as snow in some places, he said.

“That might be mixing into snow during the overnight hours as temperatures get closer to freezing,” he said.

But Anand isn’t expecting that storm to lead to any travel issues.

“It would be a very wet snow,” he said. “It would not really accumulate to stay very long.”

As wet as it has been for the past several days, as of March 16, the Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington had recorded only 0.48 inches of precipitation — less than the 0.56 inches it normally receives by that date, Anand said.

But he expects that number to increase markedly in the next several days.

“Given the active pattern over the next few days, you should go above that very soon,” he said.

If that happens, it would follow a trend that San Juan County has experienced throughout the entirety of 2023 so far. A total of 2.41 inches of moisture had been recorded at the airport by March 16 — a figure well ahead of the 1.74 inches normally registered by that date.

A puddle covers much of the parking lot at Kiwanis Park in Farmington on March 16.

“It’s been a very wet winter and early spring, and that’s very good news for up there,” Anand said, referring to the drought that has plagued San Juan County for the past several years.

That relatively wet winter has allowed nearly half the county — more than 47% — to escape from any drought or abnormally dry characterization, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Only three months ago, the entire county was classified as being abnormally dry or under one of four drought categories.

These days, nearly the entire western and northern portions of the county are back to normal. But conditions deteriorate the farther southeast you go in the county, ranging from abnormally dry to moderate drought to a small island of severe drought that is centered around Nageezi.

Those conditions are largely duplicated across the rest of New Mexico. Most of the western one-third of the state is experiencing normal conditions, while the middle third of the state is only at abnormally dry status. But the eastern third of the state is still locked in a drought that ranges from moderate at the low end to exceptional, the worst classification, on the high end.

The USDA’s dought.gov website offers another perspective on conditions, one that reflects the relatively soggy state of San Juan County. Its map measuring soil moisture content shows that most of southwestern San Juan County is among the wetter locations in New Mexico, with soil moisture values at or approaching 100% — excellent news for those worried about a time of year that traditionally has meant the start of wildfire season. Those conditions are matched in only a few other places in the state, including northwest McKinley County and isolated portions of Socorro, Catron, Hidalgo and Lincoln counties.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 ormeasterling@daily-times.com.

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