Santa Fe's Weather
by Richard McCord
1998-With the city elections staring us in the face, I suppose
I should reflect upon it here. But instead I'm going to write
about . . . the weather. So many, many words have already been
said about the election that they drift into a monotone. But every
day we are shocked by another weather-related calamity.
Florida gets the worst tornadoes in its history, with 38 dead and counting.
Weeks after week torrential rains inundate California, sweeping
people to horrible deaths in gigantic mudslides. Fishing boats
are capsized off the Carolina coast. Entire New England forests
are leveled by ice storms. And that's just in America-much of
the world is hurting, too.
Most of this year's devastating weather is being blamed on El Nino, the
periodic massing of abnormally warm water in the mid-Pacific.
Yet meteorological catastrophes strike with or without such an
excuse. Not a year passes without disaster.
Just last winter the northern plains were buried under record snows, followed
by the worst spring flooding ever in North Dakota and Minnesota.
We all remember the litter-strewn nothingness where Florida communities
were blown off the Earth by Hurricane Andrew. We recall when the
Mississippi River was three or four miles wide in 1993, and levees
were giving way all along its course. We recall blizzards that
paralyzed cities like Buffalo, Chicago, Pittsburgh and New York,
and tornadoes that cut swaths through Louisville and Dallas. I
remember flash floods in Arizona and California that obliterated
desert Interstate highways and drowned hikers and campers.
My point is this: Whether from luck, geography or the grace of God, Santa
Fe never seems to get any killer weather! Is our little
corner of the world the only place so blessed?
With the city's political course now up for grabs, perhaps it is frivolous
to be talking weather. Yet faces at City Hall come and go-but
during all my years here, since May 1971, Santa Fe's gentle climate
has been remarkably constant.
Curiously, the last truly severe weather to hit Santa Fe came just months
before my arrival. In January 1971 the worst cold spell in New
Mexico history took Santa Fe down to 47 below zero. Despite the
cold, however, only three deaths were reported statewide.
Over the next 27 years, Santa Fe and New Mexico have seen enough extremes
in weather to keep things interesting, but not to wreak havoc.
On three occasions I have shivered through 12-below-zero nights,
but nothing lower than that. And believe it or not, until 1994
Santa Fe had never officially registered a 100-degree day
in National Weather Service records. But then the mark fell, and
recent heat waves have notched it up a bit.
We've had some fierce snowstorms through the years, and people and livestock
have died in them. But none really counted as monumental disasters.
The 1996 drought, with forest fires and water shortages, qualified
as a crisis-but not when compared to the hellish droughts and
infernos that tormented California this year. We never even rationed
No, when asked my idea of a perfect climate, I simply describe Santa Fe's:
four distinct seasons; cold nights and sunny days in winter, with
snow mixed in; hot days and cool nights in summer, with clouds
and rain and hail mixed in; glorious sun-drenched autumns, with
bracing temperatures; and unpredictable springs, sometimes mellow,
And even now, in this year of the mighty El Nino, look what we're getting:
mild winter days, week after week yet with plenty of snow in the
mountains for skiers and for next summer's water. Nowhere in the
country has it any better.
Now if only the new crew at City Hall can do as well. Whatever happens
on Election Day, I feel we'll be OK. And unless I jinxed it with
this article, I think the weather will be, too.
Fe averages 300 days of sunshine, 14 inches of rain and 17.5 inches
of snow a year. High temperature is usually just after midday;
low is just before dawn.
by Richard McCord