Santa Fe got drenched again Sunday night with roughly a half-inch of chilly rain and hail—another soggy reminder that the state is finally getting reprieve from one of the worst droughts it’s encountered recently and experiencing one of the wettest Septembers on record.
Precipitation at the Santa Fe Airport is reported at 3.85 inches for September at press time. That’s 2.77 inches above the monthly average.
Kerry Jones, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, tells SFR that Duke City experienced the wettest six-day period since 1891 in the period that ended Sept. 15. Areas surrounding Santa Fe got drenched, too. Las Vegas, he says, experienced the highest six-day precipitation since 1941. It’s received about 10 inches in September.
It’s hard to tell exactly how historically significant the September precipitation has been for Santa Fe. NWS Meteorologist Deidre Kann says the Santa Fe Airport has records from 1941-1959 and 1998 to present. The Federal Aviation Administration didn’t archive the missing data, she says.
“Santa Fe is our trouble child when it comes to records,” Jones says.
Floods hammered areas surrounding Santa Fe, damaging at least 10 percent of the 675 miles of roads in the county, Public Works Director Adam Leighland tells SFR. Gov. Susana Martinez declared a state of emergency in response to flooding statewide.
But Santa Fe missed some of the rain, with areas like Pojoaque reporting more precipitation in the period ending on Sept. 15. That could be due to terrain interactions with weather systems, says Jones, such as rain shadow effects, in which mountains block weather systems, producing pockets of dry air on the other side. “I think you have to point towards the interaction of terrain…It’s a critical piece of the puzzle so to speak,” Jones says. “And obviously the terrain is fixed and is not changing. And what does change is how the low-level wind flow is directed into the terrain most obviously favors certain areas over others.”
The image above describes the situation the best: Santa Fe, and much of the state, is experiencing a weather “anomaly.” The image comes from the Oregon State University’s PRISM [Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model] Climate Group and its director, Dr. Christopher Daly.