National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Tornado Awareness

What Types of Severe Weather Can I Expect in New Mexico?

  • All 33 counties in New Mexico experience severe thunderstorms producing high winds, large hail, deadly lightning, and heavy rains at some time during the year.

  • During the spring, from April through June, storms are at a peak mainly in the eastern areas of the state. Storms become more numerous statewide from July through August.

  • Tornadoes have been verified in most New Mexico counties. The highest risk of tornadoes is in the east during April through July, but tornadoes are possible with any thunderstorm. New Mexico averages about 10 tornadoes in a year.  One of the more significant tornado outbreaks occurred on May 23, 2010 across eastern Union County.

  • New Mexico experiences mostly weak, short-lived tornadoes. Strong tornadoes, while rare, are possible and occur about once every 10 years.

  • New Mexico's complex terrain favors the formation of numerous small landspouts, a weak and short-lived variation of the tornado similar to a dust devil.  Landspouts may form without the presence of a strong thunderstorm.

  • Tornadoes can severely damage large and small buildings.

  • Hail with flash flooding becomes a threat for central and western New Mexico from June through September.

  • Hail can cause extensive damage to vegetation, vehicles, homes, and other property.

Here are some more tornado and hail facts for New Mexico...

  • Seventy-five (75) percent of severe storms with tornadoes occur in eastern New Mexico and are most likely to occur between April and July.  However, the latest tornado fatalities in New Mexico occurred on March 23, 2007 when two people died, 1 near  Clovis (33 were injured) and one in Quay County.  Another fatality occurred west of Albuquerque in October 1974 and a rare winter tornado was reported southwest of Roswell in December 1997.  This shows that tornadoes can be deadly at anytime and nearly anywhere within the state, even at both low and high elevations.

  • The Cimarron tornado on July 25, 1996 caused nearly 2 million dollars in damage, but fortunately only 6 injuries.

  • Other tornadoes that caused multiple injuries include: Carlsbad 1992 (6 injured), Maxwell 1964 (1 dead, 8 injured), Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron 1960 (34 injured), Wagon Mound 1930 (3 dead, 19 injured) and Logan 2007 (12 injured).

  • Most counties across the eastern half of the state will see large hail ranging from golf ball to baseball sized at least 6 to 8 times during the spring and also during the summer thunderstorm season.

  • Smaller hail is much more frequent and common in all counties across the east.

  • Counties in the central and western areas will see damaging hail at least twice each year. Hail the size of golf balls has been reported near Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces within the past 15 years. The Socorro hail storm in October 2004 caused nearly 40 million dollars in damage from baseball sized hail.

    The tables below illustrate the frequency of tornadoes and hail by month and by hour of the day since 1950.

    Tornadoes by Month

    Hail Events by Month

    Hail Events by Hour