West Texas Weather Predictions

One of the questions many rockhunters have is about the weather here in West Texas. For example, right now (Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015) there’s a forecast of snow and very cold temperatures for Sunday. Here’s my accumulated weather wisdom from living in Alpine for 20 years: Weather forecasts are of very little use in determining what the weather will be for a rockhunt.

First, most of ranches are out between the towns, so you need to get the forecast for two or three places and average them to find out what to expect on the ranches. For the Singleton Ranch, you would average the temperatures between Marfa and Presidio. For the South Larremore Ranch you would average the temperature between Alpine and Terlingua. For the Walker Ranch you would again be between Alpine and Terlingua, but the probable weather would be closer to Alpine’s than Terlingua’s. East Needle Peak is between Terlingua and Big Bend National Park, and the Ritchie Ranch is right in Alpine.

Often, when cold fronts are predicted, they may not reach as far south or north as predicted, so a ranch may have weather that’s 20 or more degrees warmer than predicted. Predicted rain does not happen about half the time (it’s a desert, and the moisture often makes the air humid, but It’s not enough to make it rain), and often when it does rain it’s just sprinkles. And very occasionally it rains when it is not predicted.

All of that means that I can’t count on the weather reports here anymore than you can wherever you live.

So here’s the way I handle the weather: If someone drives all the way to Alpine to go rockhunting, I’ll take them out unless it’s pouring rain, snowing, much colder than freezing, or icy. If there has been rain, the muddy roads can be a problem for access to the better hunting areas on a ranch. Bring all kinds of layers so that you can be comfortable from 20 degrees to 70 degrees, and we can probably make it happen. You may need to wash the mud off of your car and your clothes when you get back, in addition to washing it off the rocks, but you’ll have had a fun day nevertheless!

But if the morning weather looks too bad to go out in, the rockhunt participants can wait an hour or two and see if we can start late, or change ranches if possible to one that’s not affected by the rain/snow/ice/cold. I have had days that started out looking terrible end up just wonderful on the ranch, and vice versa.

So to answer the question: I have no idea what the weather will hold!

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