With last frost over, San Juan County can expect rapid warming trend this week

Summery weather expected to prevail across Four Corners in days ahead

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The Four Corners Regional Airport reported a low of 32 degrees on the morning of May 13.
  • A National Weather Service meteorogist said that could be Farmington's last frost until fall.
  • Much warmer temperatures are expected this week with calm and clear conditions prevailing.

FARMINGTON — If you've been waiting on the last overnight freeze to happen in the Farmington area before planting your spring flowers or vegetable garden, your wait is probably over.

The temperature dipped to the freezing mark — 32 degrees — early on May 13 at the Four Corners Regional Airport. But with a rapid and prolonged warming trend coming to San Juan County this weekend, that may have marked the last frost of the year until fall, according to Jennifer Shoemake, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.

According to weather.gov, the average date for the last frost in Farmington comes on April 29, so the May 13 freeze was more than two weeks later than normal. But temperatures in the county were expected to hit the high 80s by May 15 and stay there through at least the middle of the week, likely marking the end to any more cold weather this season.

"This is definitely going to be the warmest stretch you've seen so far this year," Shoemake said, adding that temperatures should stay even in the middle 80s through at least next weekend.

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The growing season will get into full swing this week in San Juan County with the last freeze likely having taken place and temperatures expected to reach the upper 80s.

The stretch of summery weather is scheduled to bring with it a welcome lack of wind, at least for the next several days. While much of April and May have been marked by blustery conditions that brought with them dust and smoke, the weather service is calling for mostly calm conditions and clear skies over the next week.

"It does seem like it's been windier than normal this year," Shoemake said, noting those conditions have prevailed across most of New Mexico, not just San Juan County. "That's resulted in increased fire conditions for the state."

Shoemake said a large low-pressure system has been parked south of New Mexico for much of the last two months, which has led to a mixing of atmospheric conditions that produce wind. From April 1 through May 13, she said, there were 17 red flag warnings issued by the weather service for the Farmington area — 11 in April and six more in May. Red flag warnings are issued when the relative humidity is less than 15% and sustained winds are stronger than 20 mph.

Shoemake said red flag warnings are not unusual for New Mexico in the spring, but the timing of those warnings this year has been premature.

Farmington has received less than half its normal precipitation for the year so far, and the forecast for the rest of May does not offer much hope for moisture.

"It strikes me as earlier than usual," she said. "Typically, we don't see conditions like that until late May or early June."

Those winds have helped fuel wildfires all over the state, including the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires near Las Vegas, New Mexico, which have combined to form the second-largest fire in state history at more than 400 square miles.

San Juan County has avoided seeing a large blaze like that so far, but conditions here are far less than ideal. Shoemake said the Four Corners Regional Airport had received only 1.22 inches of moisture this year as of May 13, less than half the 2.8 inches it normally has registered on that date.

The next month holds little hope for substantive change. Shoemake said the 30-day forecast shows a good chance of above-average temperatures for the Four Corners region, although the odds of normal or even above-normal precipitation for the western half of New Mexico are even.

The weather service is expected to issue its forecast for monsoon season by June 1, she said. Those summer storms typically begin after the Fourth of July and offer the American Southwest its best chance for significant precipitation over the course of the year.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.