Flood-weary New Mexico keeps eyes on rivers
ALBUQUERQUE – New Mexico residents are keeping wary eyes on rivers and dams as parts of the state cope with weekend rains and the renewed threat of heavy runoff from already-saturated soils and flooding in low areas.
Some areas of New Mexico received close to 10 inches of rain since a deluge that has caused widespread flooding started Tuesday, Sept. 10. Parts of Albuquerque have seen more than 4 inches, marking the wettest September on record for the city.
“A lot of locations have had more moisture for the month of September than they’ve had all this year or maybe even all of last year as well,” said Jason Frazier, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.
Another round of rainfall moved across New Mexico on Sunday. In the northeastern corner of the state, where the chance for heavy rain was greatest, residents along the Gallinas River were warned that the waterway could swell again.
Moderate to locally heavy rains will maintain the potential for flash flooding and river flooding in much of northern and central New Mexico through Thursday, the Weather Service said.
The threat of flooding is expected to decrease Friday, Sept. 20, as storm activity subsides, forecasters said.
For a state that has been in the grasp of an unprecedented drought, numerous records have fallen in the past week as floodwaters have broken through dams, inundating neighborhoods and leaving behind muddy swaths of debris.
That was the case in Crownpoint, where floodwaters rushed through earlier in the week and left behind soggy carpet and other damage at Navajo Technical University. The nursing department suffered the most damage, and portable buildings have been requested so that classes can resume soon.
The university will be closed Monday, Sept. 16, as staff returns to finish assessing the damage, university President Elmer Guy said.
“This came all too sudden,” he said. “We’ve had those floods before that will come through our campus, but this time it was wider, and there was more water and it rose up. It was strong.”
Crews have been working since Friday to lessen pressure on a dam near the Crownpoint community. Guy said the water level has dropped about 12 feet and volunteers have been filling and stacking sandbags in key areas.
The rain is helping New Mexico out of the drought, but the cost has been high. At least one person has been killed, and state officials estimate the overflowing of rivers and the runoff has caused millions of dollars in damage.
The massive flooding prompted Gov. Susana Martinez to issue a state of emergency Friday, Sept. 13, opening up recovery funding for roads. She toured some of the water-logged areas the next day and told The Albuquerque Journal that she expects to make additional emergency declarations.
“We will be able to release as much money as is necessary to rebuild infrastructure,” Martinez told residents during a stop in Sierra County.