January ranks 12th warmest on record

Jason Wolfe, a detailer for Big Country Ford, washes vehicles on the sales lot Thursday afternoon. (Staff photo: Sharna Johnson)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Under normal winter circumstances, Delores Montoya would be sipping hot chocolate. Not a frozen strawberry daiquiri. Brad Props would be practicing his golf swing inside. Not on a golf course in a short-sleeved shirt.

But these are not normal winter circumstances. January was the 12th warmest on record in New Mexico, according to the Associated Press.

So Props, a member of the Clovis High School golf team, spent the Thursday afternoon on a local golf course, honing his skills for a season that doesn’t begin until March.

“I wouldn’t normally be out here, not in January or February. It’s usually snowing. But this,” Props said as a mild breeze floated across the course, “gives me a chance to practice before the season starts.”

The average high temperature in January is 51 degrees and 56 degrees in February, according to the Western Region Climate Center. The record average high for January is 60 degrees in 1953. The record average high in February is 67 in 1930.

And Montoya sipped a frozen strawberry daiquiri at a local bar as the temperature reached into the 60s for the third straight day, saving hot chocolate for a more typical wintry day. The Clovis resident pined for a drop of snow around the holidays, and she still hopes to see some flakes in February.

“I enjoy the seasons,” she said. “It just didn’t seem like the holidays this year.”

The warm weather has also severely amputated the activity of skiers and snowboarders. Clovis snowboarder Tim Vernon, 17, hit the slopes just twice this winter and was sorely disappointed.

“The quality of the snow is not good,” said Vernon, who is also a member of the Clovis High School golf team, but would gladly store his clubs in a closet during the winter, and snowboard instead, he said.

Folks such as Vernon and Montoya may have to kiss their hopes for a traditional winter good-bye, if forecasts are correct.

A mighty ridge of high air pressure, which extends from the Rocky Mountains to the southwest, is blocking cool air from seeping into New Mexico, said Albuquerque National Weather Service meteorologist Keith Hayes. And its reign over weather patterns won’t likely ease.

“It won’t move soon. There will be few interruptions. Only from minor systems causing occasional surges of cool air down the plains,” Hayes said.