Flooding, Salt Flats & Mountain Greenery: El Paso’s Summer of 2021
The Summer of 2021 will be remembered as much for the monsoonal rains and the unprecedented flooding it caused as it will for the transformation of our landscape that resulted from the higher-than-average rainfall.
The exceptionally wet summer had us looking more like the Soggy City at times than the Sun City, but the end results of the numerous rainfall events also gave us a different perspective and renewed appreciation of our natural surroundings.
For weeks, social media was filled with post after post, photo after photo, and comment after comment about the greenness of our mountains and hiking trails, the destruction caused by the flooding, and the breathtaking temporary oasis that formed in the Salt Flats of Hudspeth County.
Monsoon typically means an increase in thunderstorm activity, but the summer of 2021 saw several super-intense, record-breaking thunderstorms roll through the city. The resulting flooding each time wreaked havoc on homeowners’ properties, city streets, and every low-lying area it could find.
One flash flood in mid-August turned deadly taking the life of a 65–year-old woman and her 2–year-old granddaughter after their living room wall collapsed and trapped the pair under flood waters.
Rainbows and Lightning Shows
Mother Nature's wrath struck fear -- and wonder -- into the hearts of many El Pasoans. As lightning and rain barreled its way from one end of the city to the other, lightning enthusiasts (yes, they're out there) captured its terrifying beauty on camera.
They say if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. Rainbows are magic no matter when in the year they happen, but the ones we saw this summer seemed much more spectacular.
Salt Flats: A Rare Water Wonderland
Down the road to the east about an hour and half away on Hwy 62/180 near the base of the Guadalupe Mountains State Park are the Salt Flats.
Most of the time just a part of the barren landscape you may or may not notice on the way to Carlsbad Caverns, the remnants of a one-time salt water sea millions of years in the making was transformed into a rare water wonderland by all the rain.
When word got out about its existence, El Pasoans flocked to the area in large numbers to witness the breathtaking beauty of the temporary oasis, wade in the inches-deep lake of pearl-colored water, and take photos. And take photos they did. Lots and lots of them.
Rain Awakens Franklin Mountains
The very active monsoon and the amount of rain it’s produced in a short amount of time brought so much life to the desert, and the change to our normally barren mountains was dramatic.
Both the Franklin and Organ Mountains in neighboring Las Cruces, New Mexico appeared to suddenly wake up sprouting an overabundance of wildflowers, desert plants, and fields of green as far as the eye could see.
Weeds Gone Wild
The scenery and greenery wasn't all Instagram-worthy.
By the end of August, weeds had taken up residence on every available yard, sidewalk, and traffic median in and around El Paso.
The unsightly weed jungles caught the attention of fed up neighbors and the city's Code Enforcement Department, which threatened to fine property owners despite the city itself being a major offender.