Legions of East Coast and Midwest natives have flocked to the Southwest in recent years for the unique landscapes, burgeoning culture, and comfortable climate. While New Mexico is beautiful year-round, the summers can be brutal for newcomers unaccustomed to the dry heat and tumultuous skies of the desert.
The state’s most popular cities, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, regularly reach well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and during the monsoon season of the late summer, bone-rattling thunderstorms release shocking deluges.
New Mexico is a wondrous place, but those who want to survive their first summers should consider the following tips for a safe and fun desert experience.
The only way desert dwellers in the Southwest avoid heatstroke during the summertime is by spending quite a lot of time indoors, but that simple solution doesn’t work if your home’s cooling system isn’t functioning at full capacity. New Mexican homeowners know the value of getting their air conditioners checked and repaired before the start of the long, hot summer. By the time the dog days begin, the multitudes of procrastinators will be clamoring for cooling help, and sufferers will have to wait to feel cool and comfortable indoors.
Still, to avoid cabin fever, plenty of New Mexicans enjoy the great outdoors during June, July, and August — as long as the great outdoors is near cool and refreshing water. Personal pools are much more common in the Southwest than in other regions of the country, and most homeowners find the expense of digging their own pools well worth it. Still, there are dozens of other wet options, including water parks and lakes.
Though many East Coast natives and Midwesterners may feel confident reacting to rain, showers during New Mexico summers are a completely different beast. Originating from ominous, black clouds, a Southwest summer storm has more than a 10 percent chance that it is severe, meaning it drops inch-diameter hail, blows winds upwards of 58 miles per hour, and/or produces a dust storm. Suffice it to say that New Mexico thunderstorms are incredibly dangerous to both people and property. Therefore, it is crucial to practice thunderstorm safety.
Whenever New Mexicans see dark clouds gathering on the horizon, they head indoors en masse and settle down for at least a half-hour of torrential storm. Being outside during a thunderstorm puts a person in harm’s way, be it through lightning strike or blowing debris. Driving is also hazardous, as towering objects like trees and power lines are often torn down into the road by the powerful winds. Even when inside, there are a few thunderstorm rules to keep people especially safe:
- Stay away from doors and windows.
- Avoid using the phone or other electronics.
- Unplug surge-sensitive devices like computers and televisions.
- Postpone using water, like showering, bathing, or washing dishes.
- Have flashlights and candles ready in case of power failure.
Though it may seem that New Mexican summers are too dangerous to endure, the warm weather months are also particularly beautiful times to experience the scenery and culture. As long as visitors and new locals plan their schedules well, they should be able to see exciting New Mexican attractions while remaining comfortable and safe.
The unique natural wonders around the state offer endless enchantment, and as many landscapes and monuments exist high in the mountains, they offer an excellent escape during New Mexico’s dog days. Trekkers will love La Luz Trail, which stretches across the Sandia Mountains. Just a short drive from Santa Fe, Tent Rocks National Monument offers stunning rock formations unlike anywhere else in the country. White Sands National Monument is also a striking, one-of-a-kind place, as is Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which has the benefit of being a cool, dark cave even during the hottest times of day.
For refreshing, air-conditioned fun, New Mexico sight-seers can tour any of New Mexico’s outstandingly distinct museums. In Roswell, the UFO Museum offers “artifacts” from earthlings’ interactions with alien life. The Billy the Kid Museum in Fort Sumner tells of the Kid’s life and death, which occurred nearby at Fort Sumner Monument. For more modern history, the Los Alamos History Museum explains New Mexico’s contributions to the Manhattan Project.
New Mexico is indeed the Land of Enchantment (the state’s nickname) but to non-natives braving their first Southwest summers, it can also seem like the land of suffering. However, with some AC forethought and careful vacation scheduling, New Mexico may indeed offer new natives their best summer ever.