EL PASO, Texas -- It was Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011, when an intense arctic air mass moved into southern New Mexico and far west Texas.
The weather system brought locally heavy snowfall to portions of the area on the night of Feb. 1st and into the afternoon of the 2nd, and was followed by several days of sub-freezing temperatures.
Temperatures in El Paso rose no higher than the upper teens on Feb. 2nd and 3rd.
The prolonged cold weather caused widespread failures of infrastructure. Water and gas utilities suffered from broken pipes and mains, with water
leaks flooding several homes.
At El Paso Electric, all eight primary power generators failed due to freezing conditions. While energy was brought into the area from elsewhere on the grid, rolling blackouts were implemented during peak electric use hours.
Even as temperatures warmed up, water shortages continued to affect the El Paso and Sunland Park areas, as failed pumps caused reservoirs to quickly dry up.
By the end of the event, El Paso had experienced freezing temperatures for 78 consecutive hours.
Through the event and its aftermath, many have asked just how rare it is to have such a prolonged period of cold weather in the El Paso area.
While there are many ways to look at the statistics and rank previous cold waves, the National Weather Service indicates by just about all metrics, at least for El Paso, this was not the worst cold wave on record. That dubious honor appears to belong to a cold wave in January 1962, although this 2011 event was a close rival.