New Mexico Floods, Mudslides, and More Rain to Come

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Rain falls like a blanket of dark water on the Sandia Mountains on the afternoon of September 15, 2013. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Rainy Season Extends Due to Hurricane Season

According to Meteorologist Dierdre Kann, the Southwest Monsoon generally ends around September 30.

However, the rainy season is sometimes continued due to storms brought in by the hurricane season, which is already underway.

New Mexico may continue to see heavy rains for months to come, and with this, more floods.

Therefore, Kann also explained that residents should pay close attention to watches and warnings in the weeks to come and understand the difference between the two.

A Flood Watch means we’ve looked at all of the meteorological parameters and antecedent conditions, how much moisture is already in the air, and decided there will likely be heavy rain, storms that retrain over a slow moving area. In other words, rethink that camping trip you’ve planned for the weekend,” she said. “A warning means flooding is already in place. Move to higher ground.”

Unfortunately, even with the advance watches and warnings issued this week, New Mexico residents were trapped by flood waters.

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Flood waters near Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Dangerous NM Storms Trap Residents and Swamp Schools

On Saturday, September 14, 2013, between 100 and 200 people were stranded on the west bank of the Animas Creek near Truth or Consequences and later rescued by the National Guard. That same night, a man was rescued from his car in the City of Rio Rancho near Albuquerque, and eight homes were evacuated on the north side of town. The flood waters claimed one victim in southern New Mexico; Steven Elsley of Phoenix, Arizona was killed in his car in Ash Canyon on September 15. Residents are now nervously spending their evenings listening to helicopters fly over the river to check for dangerous conditions.

On Monday, September 15, flood waters swamped the sewage system in Grants, New Mexico, where a high school and elementary school were both closed due to sewage problems. In Socorro County the water burst through three levees as homes were evacuated then flooded near the junction where the Rio Puerco-a tributary of the Rio Grande-and the Rio Grande meet. An additional levee break caused flooding in the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.

Flooding in Las Vegas, New Mexico

When the floods started, water from the Gallinas River exploded over its banks and burst through walls surrounding homes in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Some of the homes were filled with water and bridges were damaged, restricting access to safety while 50 homes were under evacuation.

A 20 foot rupture in an earth diversion canal in Gallinas Canyon created to send river water to nearby Storrie Lake instead sent river water rushing down the main streets of Las Vegas at an estimated 20,000 cubic feet per second. The Las Vegas water was meant for use as irrigation and drinking water.

According to Robert Quintana, President of the Storrie Project Water Users Association, the lost water could have served the many users of the lake for at least a year- users like the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge. Now, the lost water is turning the arroyos into mud pits. Still, the rain continued to fall.

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