San Juan County evades worst of winter storm across state, but frigid temperatures coming

Morning lows across much of New Mexico this week will be below zero

Mike Easterling Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
  • The heaviest snow appeared to have fallen in the eastern part of the county, where Navajo Dam reported 2.5 inches.
  • Locations around Aztec reported totals of 1.1 inches to 1.3 inches.
  • Overnight lows in the Farmington area will be in the single digits Feb. 3-5.

FARMINGTON — San Juan County may have received only a glancing blow from the winter storm that blew through New Mexico overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, but it was enough to provide a fresh layer of powder across the area and drive temperatures downward.

As of 10 a.m. on Feb. 2, the heaviest snow appeared to have fallen in the eastern part of the county, where Navajo Dam reported 2.5 inches and locations around Aztec reported totals of 1.1 inches to 1.3 inches, according to the Albuquerque bureau of the National Weather Service. Other parts of the county received only enough snow to cover the ground.

That was less than what most other locations in the northern two-thirds of New Mexico received. A site northwest of Angel Fire reported 7 inches, while Los Alamos reported 6 inches and Raton came in at 4.8 inches. Snowfall totals varied widely in Rio Arriba County, ranging from 10 inches at higher elevation to 2 inches in lower sites. Chama reported 5.5 inches of powder.

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Locations around the Albuquerque area reported anywhere from 3.5 inches to 1.4 inches, while the Santa Fe area saw approximately 1 inch of snow. Totals in Taos County ranged from 2 inches to 4 inches, and Jemez Pueblo in Sandoval County saw 2.5 inches.

While residents of other parts of New Mexico awoke to snowfall totals of several inches on Feb. 2, many parts of San Juan County received only a dusting.

"The cold air came in from the east, and we're just getting started, actually," David Craft, a meteorologist for the Weather Service in Albuquerque said, explaining that more snow was expected across the state during the afternoon and evening of Feb. 2.

The southern part of the state was expected to receive most of that snow, he said.

"This probably the strongest winter storm so far in New Mexico, and it could turn out to be the strongest winter of the season because we don't really see any winter storms on the horizon," he said.

The high-elevation areas of the state are expected to receive 12 to 18 inches of snow from the storm, while some lower-elevation sites could wind up with 8 to 12 inches, he said.

A National Weather Service official says this week's winter storm in New Mexico is probably the most significant system to hit the state this season.

Once the snow peters out early on Feb. 3, the main concern for most New Mexicans will be the frigid temperatures they will experience. Once again, San Juan County will not have to deal with the worst elements of the system, as lows here are expected to range from the high to middle single digits Feb. 3 through Feb. 5. But wind chills will be much worse, as they are expected to hit minus 1 on the morning of Feb. 3.

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Other locations in northern New Mexico are in for much colder conditions. Lows on Feb. 3 will range from minus 20 in Angel Fire to minus 2 in Raton and Las Vegas. Temperatures will drop even further later in the week, with Angel Fire hitting minus 24 on Feb. 4, while Raton could see a low of minus 5.

Wind chill factors will be even worse. Red River is expected to see a wind chill of minus 19 on the morning of Feb. 3, while Raton hits minus 16 and Clayton gets to minus 18. Las Vegas is expected to hit minus 14, and Santa Fe will reach minus 10. The frigid conditions are forecast to extend well into the southern part of the state, as the wind chill factor for Clovis is expected to hit minus 14 in Clovis and minus 11 in Ruidoso.

A small tree is dusted in snow on the morning of Feb. 2 southwest of Bloomfield.

In the Farmington area, the snow that fell overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday was enough to cause several problems.

The Farmington Police Department at 8:31 a.m. on Feb. 2 posted on its Twitter account that North Butler Avenue was closed between Apache and Navajo streets because a semitrailer slid off the road.

Farmington police spokesperson Nicole Brown said the cab had slid, causing the trailer to block the street.

There was no damage to personal property, Brown said.

Butler Avenue reopened at about 9:11 a.m., the department stated on Twitter.

The inclement weather caused the Farmington Municipal School District and the Central Consolidated School District to hold classes by remote learning while the Bloomfield School District canceled classes.

The Aztec Municipal School District also closed for the day after initially deciding on remote learning.

"While the snow has subsided, the roads in many areas of the AMSD have substantial ice making travel unsafe for students and staff who may need to travel to complete remote learning," the district posted on its website.

"As a result, AMSD will be canceling all virtual classes today, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. Enjoy the snow," the post concluded.

A two-hour delay was called by the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President for employees under the executive branch because of winter road conditions on the tribal land.

Frigid temperatures are expected throughout much of New Mexico over the next few days in the wake of a winter storm that arrived late on Feb. 1.

Despite those issues, the storm did little to ease the drought conditions that continue to plague San Juan County. Craft said the Four Corners Regional Airport had reported only 0.03 inches of precipitation for the year as of Feb. 2. That location normally experiences 0.72 inches for January, he said, so the city already is off to a dry start to the year.

Craft said conditions this winter largely have mirrored what forecasters expect from a La Nina year, which typically leads to warmer and drier conditions in the American Southwest. He said the entire month of December was much warmer than normal across the state.

That situation changed dramatically with the arrival of this storm, but Craft said a return to those warmer and drier conditions is in the works by the end of the weekend.

"Temperatures will rise above normal and stay there for awhile next week," he said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.