The Worst El Paso Storms In Recent Memory – Our Top Five
Snowmageddon, Flood 2006, Hailstorm 2009…People love to name these crazy catastrophies and make them as dramatic-sounding as they were to experience. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's just overdone, but El Paso has had it's share of crazy catastrophic weather over the years. With the wind getting crazy again, and the expected snow this weekend, people are probably looking warily around for another big event.
Let's remember some of the big ones we've had, without going way back to the 1920's or anything insane. Let's just talk about the ones during our lifetime!
We're not going to cover the records of “most days without rain” or “most days in a row above 100″ here. It's too hot to think about right now.
In April of 1983, El Paso was unexpectedly covered in 16.5 inches of snow! Yes, 16.5 inches. Which in other parts of the world wouldn't seem to be that big a deal, but in El Paso is crazy! Streets, businesses, schools…you name it, it was closed. JT in our office remembers working for a car dealer and they offered to pick up emergency personnel in their all-wheel drive vehicles to get them where they needed. The 16.5 inches that came down set the El Paso record for single-instance snowfall.
In January 1997 an snow/ice storm hit El Paso and shut things down for a day or so, trapping thousands of people at the Pan Am Center in Las Cruces. Here's the story. Our stations had given away a trip to see Metallica in Phoenix and Las Cruces. The winners rode with us to Phoenix to see the show on January 5th, and then truck it back to Las Cruces to see the show at the Pan Am the next night. The storm follored the van, and I-10 was being closed between El Paso and Las Cruces behind the concert-goers. Before Metallica started their encore, they announced to the crowd that all roads back to El Paso were closed, and that the Pan Am would stay open all night for people to camp in there instead of driving in the snow and ice. Thousands of people slept the night in the Pan Am after the band's show.
In 2006, Steve Carell wouldn't have been ready for the downpour that hit El Paso. If we'd had an ark, it might have helped. So much rain came down it destroyed streets, homes, businesses, cars. There were cars floating down the streets, an entire Blockbuster Video that had just been completed collapsed (which gave the added bonus to people as hundreds of DVDs floated away). Because of El Paso's lack of serious drainage, the damage was enormous. Entire streets had to be rebuilt, cars salvaged, and a video store built all over again.
In September 2009, it started to hail. No one really thought much about it since hail in El Paso only lasts a couple minutes and never gets bigger than a pea. Right? Nope. This particular September storm decided to get quite a bit larger and last for about half an hour! The original thoughts from news crews were that there was little to no damage and no injuries. Not long after that, as the claims came in and the insurance adjusters came out, the damage bill topped 150 MILLION dollars! It took some people months to get crews out to repair their roofs!
This past February, El Paso was treated to a wonderful touch of what the rest of the US was experiencing with the cold weather. We had unbelievable (if not record breaking) low temperatures and snow that crippled the area. Hundreds, okay thousands, of homes had water lines break from the unbelieveable cold, and even El Paso Electric had their generators freeze over and break, causing rolling blackouts throughout the area for at least a week! Many homes went without water for several days as water mains froze and broke, and the city untilites had to work overtime to repair the damage. Plumbers were in short supply as so many calls went out, and even the insurance companies had to fly in teams of adjusters to handle the claim volume. Curfews were put in effect, there were gas outages…it was crazy. You know, you were there.