Tornado Awareness

**Updated 2/22/2016**
  New Mexico Severe Weather Climatology Page

What Types of Severe Weather Can I Expect in New Mexico?

  • Severe thunderstorms are defined by the National Weather Service as those producing large hail ≥ 1 inch in diameter, wind gusts ≥ 58 mph, a flash flood or a tornado.   Prior to January 5, 2010, the criterion for severe hail was 3/4 inch in diameter.
  • Severe thunderstorms, particularly those that produce giant hail (2" or greater) and/or tornadoes, are most common across central and eastern New Mexico from April through July.  However, all 33 counties in the state have experienced severe thunderstorms at some time during the year. Tornadoes have been verified in most New Mexico counties.
  • New Mexico also experiences a secondary peak in large hail and tornado reports during the fall. 
  • The highest risk of tornadoes is across the eastern plains from April through July.  However, tornadoes have been documented every month EXCEPT November, January and February.  
  • New Mexico has averaged about 10 tornadoes per year since 1980.
  • New Mexico experiences mostly weak, short-lived tornadoes. Strong tornadoes, while rare, are possible and occur about once every 10 years.
  • New Mexico's complex terrain favors the formation of numerous small landspouts, a weak and short-lived variation of a tornado similar to a dust devil. Landspout tornadoes can and do form without the presence of a strong thunderstorm.
  • Hail with flash flooding becomes a threat for central and western New Mexico from June through September.

Here are some more tornado and hail facts for New Mexico...

  • Seventy-five (75) percent of severe thunderstorms that produce tornadoes in New Mexico occur across the eastern plains from mid-March to mid-July.
  • The last killer tornado in New Mexico occurred on March 23, 2007 when tragically two people died (and 33 were injured) from an EF2 tornado in and near Clovis. 
  • Previously, only two other known killer tornadoes have been documented-- May 29, 1964 at Maxwell and October 10, 1974 at Canoncito (now To'hajillee).
  • At least one tornado has been reported each year since 1953, and before that it is likely that most tornadoes went unreported.
  • The greatest number of tornadoes reported in a single year was 31 in 1991, when tornadoes devastated parts of the state, especially Eddy and Lea counties.
  • Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year and nearly anywhere within the state, even at both low and high elevations. A rare winter tornado was reported southwest of Roswell in December 1997. November, January and February are the only months that a tornado has not been documented.
  • The Cimarron tornado on July 25, 1996 caused nearly 2 million dollars in damage, but fortunately no one was killed.
    Other tornadoes that have caused multiple injuries include: Logan in March 2007 (12 injured), Carlsbad in June 1992 (6 injured), Maxwell in May 1964 (1 fatality, 8 injured), Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron in June 1960 (34 injured), and Wagon Mound in May 1930 (3 fatalities, 19 injured).
  • 66% of hail reports are 1” diameter (quarter-sized) or less. Small hail is much more frequent and common in all counties, especially across the east.
  • Hail slightly larger than a softball was observed near Dora in Roosevelt County in June 2012, which among the largest ever recorded in the state.
  • The Socorro hail storm in October 2004 caused nearly 40 million dollars in damage from baseball-sized hail and, more recently, a devastating hail storm resulted in nearly 10 million dollars damage from Santo Domingo Pueblo to Cedar Crest and the Albuquerque East Mountains on October 2, 2010.

    The graphics below illustrate the frequency of tornadoes and hail by month and by hour of the day from 1950 (tornadoes) or 1955 (hail) to 2015.

    Tornado Events by Month

    Tornadoes by Hour

    Hail Events by Month

    Hail Events by Hour is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.