Santa Cruz Farms owner Don Bustos can sum up the winter weather situation in Northern New Mexico with just two words.
“It sucks,” he said Monday as sunny skies and temperatures nearing 65 degrees once again made it seem as if Old Man Winter had already called it quits for the year — a work stoppage that has fire officials, water managers and farmers bracing for a difficult, if not depressing, spring and summer.
The good news?
Meteorologists at the Albuquerque branch of the National Weather Service said Monday afternoon the state could experience some “fairly significant” snowfall this coming weekend.
The bad news?
Those predictions for precipitation could be a bust.
Welcome to the winter of ‘17-18.
The weather service said it is using two different models to look at potential weather patterns in the next five to seven days. One — an American method for weather forecasting — predicts snow. The other — based on a European approach — does not. It is likely the two predictive models will slowly come together by week’s end to give a clearer picture, meteorologists Daniel Porter and Clay Anderson said.
Regardless, it’s been a season in which winter has acted more like spring. Tulips and crocuses are trying to jump through the soil. People wearing jackets as they walked around the Plaza area Monday looked as if they wished they had left them home. Some people wore short-sleeved shirts. Some sunbathed on city benches, enjoying the warmth.
Regardless of the joys of warm, sunny weather dominating winter days, the state could pay a big price for it come spring.
According to the weather service, from the beginning of November through the end of January, the Santa Fe region of the state has received 0.43 inches of rain.
Over the past 45 years, that yearly average has been around 1.75 inches.
Put another way, Anderson said it would take 20 to 30 inches of snow to fall between now and the end of February for the Santa Fe region to “catch up with normal.”
That seems unlikely, meteorologists at the weather service say.
“It’s very not good — very, very not good,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Randall Hergert. “Most of the state is in deep drought conditions. Santa Fe is suffering severe drought.”
That means less snow to melt into the state’s rivers and acequias, which in turn could affect agricultural efforts and lead to a higher rate of forest fires.
Delyse Fields’ two Scottish terriers, Millie and Mario, appeared as if they couldn’t care less as they lounged about on the ground of Seña Plaza Monday afternoon. Fields, on the other hand, said the climate is freaking her out. She has lived here for 40 years and said she is concerned about the potential for fires in the region.
“Last year it was California,” she said, citing the 500,000-acres plus of land lost to fires in that state in 2017. “This year it will be here.”
A man sitting in the sun on a bench nearby put it this way: “It should be winter now.”
Santa Fe native Frank Montaño, owner of Fiesta Tours, which offers tram rides around the city, said this has been “definitely one of the worst winters I’ve seen. I’ve seen it drier — but I’ve seen it a lot wetter.”
Hergert said it’s not likely to get wetter even in the next 90 days or so. He said most of New Mexico is looking at “a 40 percent chance of below-normal precipitation. It’s even higher when you get down to El Paso and Deming. It’s just not looking good for the rest of the winter, heading into spring.
“As the spring winds pick up … we’re already in a drought condition, so it’s not going to take much to ignite a wildfire.”
Don Bustos said he recalls his mother telling him similar stories about the winter of 1955, when the Santa Cruz River actually dried up and valley residents had to use burros pulling carts to get water from the Rio Grande. He recalls an old-timer who ran the local grocery store topping that by telling Bustos about the time that the Rio Grande dried up back around 1905.
“We just go on,” Bustos said. “We put our faith in God’s hands and we get ready for the year. We’re planting. We’re going forward. We will get what we need. Sometimes you don’t get what you want, but you get what you need.
“It’s not the first time this sort of thing has happened. It won’t be the last.”
Contact Robert Nott at 505-986-3021 or firstname.lastname@example.org