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Recent monsoon storms brought an inch of rain to Farmington

Most other parts of New Mexico saw healthy rainfall, too

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
The San Juan River, muddy with runoff from recent monsoon rains, flows near Westland Dog Park in Farmington on July 28, 2020.

FARMINGTON — The bone-dry Farmington area saw plentiful monsoon moisture over the last week, drawing more than an inch of rain and temporarily relieving drought conditions.

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Albuquerque had expected the recent front to bring significant rainfall to the area, and their forecasts were as good as advertised. Meteorologist Andrew Church said Farmington has received 1.17 inches of rain in July — with more than an inch of that falling over the last seven days, as Farmington had received only 1/10th of an inch on July 20.

It was the first meaningful moisture Farmington had drawn in an extended period. The city saw 0.15 inches of precipitation in June and only 0.03 in May.

Church described the July total as wonderful news.

"If you would have said that (last week), it would have been more than I expected," he said.

Farmington wasn't the only San Juan County community to benefit from the rain this month. Many areas saw rain on an almost daily basis over the past eight days, and there were several reports of locally heavy precipitation, including one from the Navajo Police Department on Facebook on July 27 that indicated a rock slide had occurred on U.S. Highway 64 at Hogback impacting travel in the westbound lane.

The monsoon moisture wasn't restricted to San Juan County. Church said most areas of the state were wet – "Except for my house," he noted grumpily.

The central highlands and eastern slopes of the Sandias were hardest hit, he said, with both those areas reporting more than 5 inches of precipitation. Many other communities around the state are reporting totals of 2 inches for July.

"Those are impressive totals," he said.

There were several reports of flash floods in the Truth or Consequences area.

That abundance of rain bucks a lengthy trend of disappointing monsoon seasons in New Mexico. In the spring, Church had forecast a monsoon that was close to average, but even he sounded a little bit skeptical then, given the poor performance of the seasonal rains for the last several years. Church joked then that his NWS colleagues had taken to calling the seasonal storms "nonsoons."

After a week of steady monsoon rain, the brush bordering the muddy San Juan River in west Farmington is green and lush.

But this summer's rain has brought back memories of years past, when the seasonal storms could be counted on to provide relief from scorching temperatures and dry conditions. Daytime highs over the past week in San Juan County were consistently in the low to middle 80s, quite a bit lower than the highs in the middle 90s of a week earlier.

This month's 1.17 inches of rain in Farmington already represents a vast improvement over last summer's total, when the city saw only 0.13 inches for all of June, July and August — one of the drier stretches in the city's recorded history.

Church said hot and dry conditions would prevail in the Four Corners area for much of this week before the monsoon makes a comeback in early August with what he described as a back-door cold front. He said communities in the eastern portion of the county — Aztec and Bloomfield — are most likely to see some precipitation from that system, while he doubted it would have an impact as far west as Farmington.

Church said the recent rain provides San Juan County with some relief from the drought, but it is not a cure-all.

"It certainly helps, but that area has been so dry for so long," he said.

Fire officials for Farmington and San Juan County announced July 27 that, even with the recent rain, they are not issuing burn permits for areas under their jurisdiction — the cities of Farmington and Kirtland, and unincorporated areas of the county. They said drought conditions throughout the county remain severe.

Fire officials said they are monitoring conditions on a daily basis. They plan to meet this week to evaluate the situation and determine if they should issue new recommendations for the issuance of burn permits.

The recent rainfall did prompt officials from the Bureau of Land Management to lift their seasonal fire restrictions July 28, meaning visitors to those lands administered by the agency are allowed to have campfires. But they still advise caution, noting that not all parts of the state have seen equal amounts of moisture.

"We appreciate the public's compliance with these restrictions to reduce the number of accidental fires this season," Timothy Spisak, the agency's New Mexico director, stated in the press release.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.