Pair of storms could bring much-needed moisture to San Juan County this week

Wet, chilly weather expected to linger through Friday

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The first storm to move through the Farmington area could yield 1 to 2 inches of snow.
  • A second storm later in the week could drop another inch of powder.
  • Farmington had received only 1.65 inches of moisture for the year on March 22.

FARMINGTON — The calendar may have just turned to spring, but that doesn't mean San Juan County has seen the last of wintery weather.

A series of storms is poised to move through the area over this week, bringing colder temperatures and precipitation, some of which may fall as the frozen variety.

Andrew Church, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said a storm system that entered New Mexico on March 22 largely bypassed the northwest corner of the state, dumping most of its moisture on the north-central region. But another system was poised to follow on its heels on March 23, and that disturbance was likely to leave a mix of rain and snow, with accumulations of 1 to 2 inches in the Farmington area.

Church said by the time that system exits the state, its impact is likely to have been substantial. He said the eastern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the north-central part of the state could see up to 2 feet of snow, while the Manzanos in central New Mexico could receive 18 inches of powder. The Albuquerque area is likely to see very strong east winds on the morning of March 24, he said.

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A playground at Kiwanis Park in Farmington is blanketed in snow on Feb. 16. A mix of rain and snow is expected in the area this week from a pair of early-spring storms.

"It's got a fair amount of moisture," Church said of that storm. "And that's something we haven’t seen since the late fall or early winter. … It could be just what the doctor ordered, especially for the watersheds (in the southern part of the state) that really need it."

Yet another system is due to follow that one, arriving overnight in the Four Corners on March 25-26. Church said that system also is expected to feature a mix of rain and snow showers before it leaves the area in time for the weekend.

Temperatures are expected to increase slightly as the week progresses, Church said, meaning the Farmington area is likely to see more rain than snow. But he said accumulations could reach an inch on the morning of March 26.

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The Farmington area has seen only two-thirds of its normal precipitation for the year so far, but that could change with a pair of storms moving through this week.

He said it's possible the first storm could leave 6 inches of snow in the mountains of southwest Colorado, while the second system could deposit up to a foot of powder.

Regardless of the form it takes, any moisture that falls from the sky this week is likely to be welcome in San Juan County. Church said Farmington had seen 1.65 inches of moisture for the year on March 22, only two-thirds of the 2.46-inch average for that date.

"Hopefully, you can make up some of that with both these systems coming through," he said.

Church said this winter in New Mexico has turned out to be mostly what forecasters expected, considering a La Niña system has prevailed in the Pacific Ocean, which typically means less precipitation for the American Southwest. Moisture patterns have been hit or miss, with the Taos Ski Valley doing very well, while the Pecos River watershed did poorly, he said.

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Snow dots the landscape at Lions Wilderness Park in Farmington on Feb. 16. San Juan County is expected to get another blast of wintery weather over the next few days.

The surprise has been temperatures across the state, he said, explaining that they have not been as warm as what might have been expected during a La Niña.

Church said the potential exists for additional storms in New Mexico next week. He said an increase in temperatures could allow moisture to move up from the Gulf of Mexico.

"Things are looking up," he said. "That could mean an active storm track for the southwestern United States."

A pair of storms moving through the Four Corners area this week could have a positive impact on the mountain snowpack, which trails the historical average for late March.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's online snowpack summary, the snowpack in the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins as of March 19 continued to trail the historical average, as it has all season. The snowpack was only 80% of the historical average and 83% of normal.

The snowpack historically reaches its peak during the first week in April before it begins to decline.

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