Windy, frigid conditions and snow forecast for Four Corners area before weekend

Fast-moving system expected to exit San Juan County on Saturday

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The disturbance is expected to arrive Thursday, Dec. 9 and continue through Friday, Dec. 10.
  • Strong winds will be the first to arrive, and they will increase in intensity over a 48-hour period, perhaps reaching gusts of 40 to 50 mph by Friday.
  • The precipitation is expected to begin late Thursday in the western part of the state, then spread across the rest of New Mexico by Friday.

FARMINGTON — Only a few days behind schedule, here comes San Juan County's first winter storm of the season.

The National Weather Service is forecasting high winds, frigid temperatures and even a bit of snow for the Four Corners area over the next couple of days as a storm moves into the state. The disturbance is expected to arrive Thursday, Dec. 9 and continue through Friday, Dec. 10, clearing out in time for the weekend.

"We do have a pretty strong storm system on its way," meteorologist Alyssa Clements of the weather service's Albuquerque bureau said. "It's going to bring multiple hazards to your area."

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The landscape in San Juan County could change from beige to white over the next couple of days as a strong storm system moves through, likely resulting in the area's first snowfall of the season.

Clements said the strong winds will be the first to arrive, and they will increase in intensity over a 48-hour period, perhaps reaching gusts of 40 to 50 mph by Friday. She expects the precipitation to begin late Thursday in the western part of the state, then spread across the rest of New Mexico by Friday.

That moisture will fall as rain in the lower elevations and snow in the mountains on Thursday before transitioning to snow across the state by Friday evening, she said. The Farmington area is expected to see a half inch of powder, according to Clements.

That would be Farmington's first measurable snowfall of the year, and it would arrive just a few days after the city's average first snowfall date of Dec. 4, according to the weather service.

The more notable element of the storm will be the Arctic temperatures it is likely to bring with it. Clements said the forecast low for Farmington on Friday night is 7 degrees, noting that would be 13 degrees below the city's normal low for that date. Combined with the expected wind gusts that day, the wind chill values in San Juan County could be bitterly cold as the weekend approaches.

But the moisture that is expected to accompany the system will be most welcome. Clements said Farmington had received only 5.4 inches of precipitation this year at the Four Corners Regional Airport, well below the 7.54 inches it normally has seen by Dec. 7.

Approximately two-thirds of San Juan County is classified as being in extreme drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor, the second-worse category, making it one of the driest counties in the state. And with La Niña conditions prevailing in North America – which traditionally results in warmer than normal and drier than normal conditions across the American Southwest – there is little reason to think things will change soon.

Many parts of New Mexico received significant rainfall over the summer during the monsoon season to alleviate the effects of the drought. But Clements said the state has gotten very little moisture since then.

"Everybody's in the same boat, unfortunately," she said. "It's been very dry across the area for the last month or two."

This week's storm system will be a fast-moving one, blowing out of the area by Saturday, Dec. 11, allowing sunny skies to return and a warming trend to begin. The Farmington area's next chance for precipitation comes on Tuesday, Dec. 14, when the weather service said there is a 30 percent chance of showers.

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