Review of Severe Weather Across New Mexico in 2013

Severe weather typically occurs across central and eastern New Mexico, however, there are occasionally reports west of the mountains, and many times those are flash flood reports. The map below shows the spatial variation of severe weather reports for 2013.  Click on an individual balloon for more details on the event.

 

Severe weather is defined as hail greater than or equal to 1 inch, thunderstorm wind gusts greater than or equal to 58 mph, a flash flood or a tornado. However, prior to January 5, 2010, the criteria for severe hail was 3/4 inch. For consistency, the table below, as well as the map above, includes all severe weather reports, including hail reports as small as 3/4 inch.  This year, the National Weather Service in Albuquerque received 300 severe weather reports. The total number of severe weather reports across the state as a whole was 418. These totals do not include wind gusts greater than or equal to 58 mph that occurred from non-thunderstorm wind events. The table below shows the breakdown of reports received.

2013 Severe Weather Reports
Event ABQ CWA Statewide
Tornado 2 2
Hail 124 153
Thunderstorm Wind Gust 72 102
Flash Flood 102 161
Total 300 418

 

Severe weather was much more abundant this year than last, so it is difficult to pick out only a few major events.  Here are just six major events that occurred  this year across the state.  They are listed here in chronological order.

February 24th: Though not typically viewed as severe weather, a blizzard debilitated the eastern plains on  February 24th.  Snow amounts were generally in the 6 to 12 inch range across the east central plains, though winds topped 50 mph at many locations.  Whiteout conditions were reported and many roads were closed.

June 19th: Though there were many hail reports received  this year, reported hail sizes were generally 1.75 inches, golfball size, or less.  The two exceptions were baseball size hail stones that fell just north of Arabela on June 7th and north and northwest of Tucumcari on June 19th.  Below is a radar image of the supercell that produced the large hail just north of Tucumcari.

Radar Image of Baseball Hail producing Supercell near Tucumcari
Composite Radar Image taken at 4pm June 19, 2013

July 3rd: Snow?  No, it only looked like it snowed when hail ranging from nickel to golfball size pummelled Santa Rosa for several minutes. Hail accumulated up to two feet in spots while roofs partially collapsed and skylights were broken. Snow plows were sent out to clear the roadways.

 
 Photo by Santa Rosa Fire Department

July 23rd: An estimated 90 mph wind gust originating from a microburst devasted parts of Columbus, NM. A survey revealed several manufactured homes sustained significant damage.  This was the strongest estimated wind gust in the state in 2013.

Photo by Mike Hardiman, NWS El Paso/Santa Teresa

July 26th: An 89 mph gust, the strongest measured wind gust in the state in 2013, occurred at 7:36 pm at the Albuquerque Sunport as thunderstorms producing severe microbursts were moving south along the Rio Grande Valley.  This was the strongest wind gust on record for the Albuquerque Sunport since 1939, though it was not the strongest recorded in the Albuquerque Metro area.  This was a unique event as the microburst winds were likely accelerated by channeling down the valley terrain.   In addition to the ferocious winds, flooding was also reported across much of central and eastern portions of Albuquerque.  This was the 3rd flooding event in the Albuquerque Metro during the month of July.  The first event occurred on July 8th in the South Valley and the second event occurred on July 19th across eastern Albuquerque.

September 10th-18th:  Many areas received several months, if not one year's, worth of rainfall in just a couple of days.  Though much of the rainfall was not particularly heavy, it was persistent, which led to gradual arroyo and river rises.  The water was too much for many of these creeks, streams, and rivers to hold and river banks were overtopped, flooding nearby areas.  An exception to these gradual rains occurred on the night of September 14th, when thunderstorms producing very heavy rainfall parked themselves upstream of Mogollon and Glenwood, near the Whitewater-Baldy burn scar.  Residents of the area estimate up to 10 inches of rain was received that night.  The resulting floodwaters devastated the community of Mogollon as well as portions of Glenwood.  A wonderful write-up of this and other September flooding across northern and central New Mexico flooding can be found here.  Another write-up on southern New Mexico flooding can be found here.

 
Outside of the historic September flooding event, much of the flash flooding that occurred was near and downstream of recent burn scars......walls of water, sometimes up to 10 feet deep, were reported within Santa Clara Creek.
 
Only two tornadoes were reported this year across New Mexico. Both of them were rated EF-0 and both occurred in San Juan County in September.  This is the only year, since record keeping began in 1950, that a tornado was reported in San Juan County, while no tornadoes were reported across the eastern plains during the same year.
 
How does 2013 compare to normal? Since 1950, the average number of tornadoes reported in the state is 8 to 9, which makes 2013 below average.  At least one tornado has been reported each year since 1953, and before that it is likely that most tornadoes went unreported.  The highest number of tornadoes ever reported was in 1991, when 31 tornadoes devastated parts of the state, especially Eddy and Lea counties.  The average number of hail reports have steadily increased since 1950 due to increased awareness, and today the average number of events is near 130.  Therefore, the number of hail events were slightly above normal this year.  Flash flooding records only date back to 1993, however since then, the average number of flash flooding events is around 40 per year.  Therefore, 2013 was well above normal for flood events.  Thunderstorm wind events were also well above the average number of 35 events per year.
 

2013 Severe Weather Events by MonthThe graph on the left shows the distribution of New Mexico severe weather events by month.  New Mexico's primary severe weather season is in the spring, though a secondary season often occurs in the fall. This is somewhat illustrated by hail events this year, however, due to the significantly fewer events as compared to normal, the bimodal distribution of severe weather events is not well represented. This graph also shows that flash flooding in New Mexico is most frequent during monsoon season. Click on the graph for a larger image.

 
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