Life is full of risks, many of which are universal. However, some dangers are greater in certain places. Even though New Mexico is awesome, we still have hazards that kill residents and visitors alike. So use your common sense and avoid the following threats when possible! (Not ranked in order of danger.)
During the summer months, parts of New Mexico experience almost daily thunderstorms. We actually have the highest rate of death by lightning in the nation! Admittedly the number of people affected is still small, but here it’s worth taking lightning seriously.
2. Flash floods
New Mexico mostly receives rain during “Monsoon Season,” the height of which comes in July and August. Stay out of slot canyons and arroyos when rainstorms are predicted and don’t wade or drive through floodwater. Remember, people swept away in their cars account for 60% of flood-related deaths.
3. Forest fires
New Mexico has an extra season: fire season. So we’re all about forest fire prevention – after all, we are the state that brought you Smokey Bear.
The 2011 Las Conchas Fire blazed through more than 150,000 acres of the Santa Fe National Forest. The following year, the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire burned even more land in the Gila National Forest. Sadly, it’s usually the brave men and women battling the flames who are killed by them. But fires, and the smoke they produce, also pose a risk to members of the public.
Don’t hang up your boots just yet! One of the best things about living in New Mexico is exploring our vast and stunning wilderness areas. But, with limited cell phone reception and so much untamed land, it’s hard to summon help if something does go wrong. Plus, most of the things on this list can be found in the great outdoors!
Two types of poisonous spiders are found in the state: the black widow spider and the brown spider. Technically, there are three species of brown spiders here. These are the Apache, the desert, and the blanda. Spider venom poses the greatest threat to small children.
Rattlesnakes and coral snakes are native to New Mexico. The venom of both of these snakes can kill.
The gila monster is a type of poisonous lizard in New Mexico. Its venom causes severe health problems but it isn’t actually deadly. In fact, the neurotoxin that gila monsters release has been used to create a diabetes drug!
Apparently no one told the Arizona bark scorpion about the location of state lines! These venomous creatures have been spotted in the southwestern corner of our state.
Given the Disney associations, mice and other rodents don’t seem particularly threatening. Undesirable, sure. But lethal? While New Mexican rodents are hardly closet assassins, they can carry potentially fatal diseases.
Out of the 134 human plague cases reported in the U.S. since 1990, 65 of these occurred in New Mexico.
Hantavirus, a disease carried by mice, has resulted in 208 deaths since 1993. Out of these cases, 91 were in New Mexico. Not huge numbers given the state’s overall population, but something to think about.
9. Nuclear waste
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is located in New Mexico, near Carlsbad. Its job is to dispose of all of our country’s nuclear waste, both past and present.
In 2014, a 55-gallon drum of radioactive material erupted, contaminating the facility. Apparently, workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory filled the barrel with organic cat litter rather than clay cat litter. (Cat litter is often used to stabilize radioactive substances.) The drum was then transported to WIPP, where it burst.
The incident emphasized the possible repercussions of just one mistake.
Traffic accidents are a risk everywhere and are the 11th leading cause of death in our state. I mostly include driving because I was surprised that New Mexico was nowhere near the worst state in terms of either traffic fatalities or drunk drivers. Who knew?
What other hazards are part and parcel of life in New Mexico? Share your thoughts in the comments.