In 2003, region had driest weather in more than 20 years

Michelle Seeber

Sticky, hot and nasty.
Those were the words U.S. Postal Service mail carrier Ramona Nutt of Clovis used to describe the weather during 2003, the driest year in the city since 1980.
“It’s been weird weather for me, because it’s so dry,” Nutt said. “Last summer was unbearable.”
Mail carriers were not the only ones adversely affected by the dry weather of 2003.
It had a major impact on farmers’ crops and some ranchers said they were forced to sell all of their cattle.
Gene Massey, a dryland farmer in the Portales area, said he’s lost an estimated $300,000 to $400,000 during the last five years because of drought.
“We’re fixing to sell some land,” Massey said. “We have to liquidate some of it to pay off some of our debt. We know several farmers in our area are either cutting back or planning to quit.”
Crop insurance can’t help the situation, he said; the cost for premiums is more than the value of the crops’ potential.
“This year’s wheat was planted in September,” Massey said. “It should be up by this time of year, but ours hasn’t come up. It isn’t going to.
“It’s like going without a paycheck for five years.”
The region’s weather in 2003 was not only dry, it was uneventful.
The year saw no major snowstorms, no streaks of 100-degree days and no nights in which temperatures dropped below zero.
Clovis’ official rainfall total for the year was 12.81 inches — the city’s driest year since 1980.
The Western Regional Climate Center reports Clovis received 10.62 inches of moisture in 1980 and has received at least 13 inches of moisture every year since then … until 2003.
If not for a wet June, when Clovis received nearly 6 inches of rain, the region could have suffered its driest year in recorded history. WRCC records show Clovis received 7.56 inches of moisture in 1917.
On the plus side, a region known for its weather extremes had few noteworthy days in 2003.
Winds whipped above 50 mph on several occasions, but no widespread major damage was reported from any storm.
The hottest day of the year was July 14, when Clovis saw a high temperature of 104. The thermometer reached 100 degrees on just five days during the year, three times in July and twice in August, records show.
The year’s coldest day was Feb. 24, which saw a high temperature of 18 degrees and a low of 14. Only eight days saw temperatures below 20 degrees.
The lack of rain dominated the year’s weather news.
Floyd McAlister, Roosevelt County’s agricultural extension agent, said some parts of the county received about 7.5 inches of rain for the year.
Senior Meteorologist Perry Martin of the National Weather Service said it was dry all over New Mexico in 2003.
“We’re still classified as being in a drought,” he said.