The wonky weather of New Mexico


When I moved to New Mexico, it took years to adjust to the inconstancy of the seasons, the blatant lack of pattern in the weather.
I was used to the harsh but predictable conditions of the Midwestern United States, seasons that would change and remain changed until their turn was up.
In lieu of the wonky weather New Mexico experienced this spring and early summer, I thought it appropriate to note that the seasons in the Southwest have never been simple and decisive. Once they start to change, they could easily revert back within a day, usually accompanied by winds that can sandblast the paint off a car.
But I should be used to winds that can tear the roof off a house, right? I’m from Kansas, the land of sunflowers, tornados and Dorothy. A little wind shouldn’t bother me, right?
Wrong. The closest I ever came to seeing a tornado was a funnel cloud over my hometown that disappeared as fast as it coalesced. I have experienced more wind and misery in the Land of Enchantment than I ever would have in my childhood home near Lawrence, Kan.
Don’t get me wrong, the Midwest is no oasis of perfect weather, but I’ve seen more freak wind events here than in the central U.S.
Almost a year ago in July, the Albuquerque area experienced winds that maxed out at 89 mph, a category one hurricane in the desert. Since the Southwest is not accustomed to such extreme conditions, the storm destroyed trees, roofing and telephone poles throughout the metro area.
Though I was spared the center of the storm, I watched powerlines break apart and tree limbs snap like twigs. As a power transformer exploded below my house in Four Hills, I thought to myself, “Toto, I’m pretty sure I’m not in Kansas anymore.”
For all that, New Mexico has grown on me over the years, presenting as many beautiful days as it has miserable ones. Bugs, for example, are blessedly absent from the Southwest. The Midwest, though wet and green and gorgeous most times, is also literally crawling with an all manner of insects.
The darkness of a storm cellar brings spiders, beetles, worms, roaches, snakes and every creepy-crawly you can imagine.
Spring showers bring stagnant pools of water that spawn swarms of mosquitos larger than your head.
Swimming in the creek below your house brings biting flies that haunt your every move, and lingering in the wrong corner of a shed meant a lightning-like wasp sting on the back of your neck.
New Mexico has spoiled me. I can sit outside without spraying bug repellent, putting up screens or worrying about a cottonmouth slithering twixt my feet. The evenings cool off, so even the hottest summer days become the perfect outdoor dinner season.
New Mexico has mild temperature changes between seasons, to say the least. The daily fluxation can sometimes be up to 30 degrees F, but the actual difference from summer to winter is like a kitten compared to the lion of the Midwest.
My grandfather’s farm lies in southern Missouri, 20 miles from the Arkansas border, and in the summer of 2012, temperatures were so hot that one of his dogs died from heat stroke, not for lack of trying to keep it cool.
The winter before, an ice storm splintered tree limbs in half, sometimes snapping the branch so violently that it created the effect of thunder in the dead of December.
I should find myself blessed that I don’t have to deal with humidity that hangs around you like a cloud, swarms of bugs that fly into your ears and nose or winters that destroy trees.
New Mexico is certainly no paradise, as evidenced by smoke, dust, drought and the fickality of the seasons, but I can deal with all that — for now.