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In Albuquerque,  warm weather doesn't necessarily mean it's Spring.  We usually have rather odd Winters where it will be sunny with temperatures in the 50's or 60's one day and then it will snow the next day  (and sometimes both will occur within hours of each other!).  The past six months have seemed even stranger than usual as we received significant snowfall within the city on several different occasions.  January and February saw very warm temperatures but more rain than we've seen in over a century -- indeed,  we broke a yearly rainfall record that had stood since 1863!  Then,  March turned extremely cold and we saw our worse blizzard in at least two decades  (the last time I had to dig out my car from above was back when I lived in Kansas),  yet April began with a 70-degree day followed by another snowstorm.

No,  you can't tell Spring by temperatures and types of precipitation alone.

I know it's definitely a new season by two factors:  First,  the winds pick up -- if all the windows in your home are rattling because of the battering from the wind,  you know it must be April.  We had sustained winds in the 30-35mph range over the past couple of days with gusts reaching 50mph and above.  Here in the Northeast Heights,  it sounds like we're in the middle of a hurricane outside minus the rain.  It will only get worse before it gets better.  At least I no longer live down near Tijeras Canyon -- those westerly winds blasting through the canyon made going outside extremely difficult much of the time.

With the winds comes the dust.  The sky becomes thick with it and it can be difficult to breathe outside. I've almost given up trying to wash my car during the springtime -- it will just become coated with dust again on the drive home  (and if it does rain,  that makes it even more filthy).

Over the past couple of years,  the city government has begun issuing citations for businesses and other property owners  (yes, even private citizens)  who can't control their dirt and dust blowing from their land.  I think this is partly a response to the multiple traffic accidents that happened along Interstate 40 west of Albuquerque not long ago because of frequent dust storms,  all of which kept occuring along the same stretch of highway over the course of several months.

Even the New Mexico State Fairgrounds  (which was renamed a few years ago to "Expo New Mexico" although the mayor and the newscasters are the only ones who call it that)  are in danger of receiving citations.  All that dirt tends to blow off of the horse track and dirt roads between the barns,  etc. so they need to keep them watered down  (which could bring water-use violations since we have continuing restrictions with the long-term drought).

A news report I found humorous this evening had an interview with the fairgrounds president saying how the horse-owners were required to prevent their sawdust mounds from adding to the air pollution this time of year.  That was accompanied by footage of sawdust trailing off into the wind;  when the reporter asked about that,  the fairgrounds president replied,  "Well,  the tarps covering the sawdust tend to blow away."

And the second sure-fire way of telling that it's Spring in Albuquerque is that you are constanly hearing about search & rescue operations in the Sandia Mountains.  Hikers often think just because it's warm and sunny at the base that it's okay to walk those trails up to the Crest without taking adequate water,  warm clothing,  etc.  Usually,  by the middle of March,  you start hearing the helicopters over by the peak and seeing the reports on the news about some poor person stuck in the snow at 8,000 or 10,000 feet.  This year,  that started happening in January -- first there were just one or two S&R operations every couple of weeks but lately it's been almost every other day.  At 10,000 feet,  it's still full-blown winter on the mountain and they said tonight that they measured 91 inches of snow at the Crest.  It won't be entirely gone until mid-June or so.

I remember the second year I lived down here I decided to drive up the back side of Sandia using the old,  "unimproved"  (meaning unpaved,  horrendous washboards, potholes,  wash-outs,  etc.) 1930's "Peak Highway".  It really is a beautiful drive through tall stands of trees and limestone outcroppings  (it passes by the ancient Sandia Man Cave where signs of prehistoric habitation were discovered 80 or 90 years ago -- then thought to represent the earliest North American human residents),  switch-backing it's way up the mountain with sheer drop-offs on either side near the top. &nbs;I took this drive in early July and encountered  (almost getting stuck in)  mud caused by the snowmelt at lower elevations and then several deep snowbanks near it's intersection with a more modern highway coming from the east at around 8,500 feet or so.  I believe they've since closed that road to non-Forest Service or rancher travel  (there are several ranches hidden among the pines near the top).

If the winds outside don't keep you up at nights during Albuquerque Aprils,  the sound of the search & rescue helicopters certainly will  (or,  your own coughing from all the dust you swallowed during the daytime).