Governor Inspects Flood Damage, Flash Flooding Still Possible

Sep 11, 2013

Jemez River, September 13th.
Credit Glen Thamert

UPDATE 9/16 6p: New Mexicans remain on high alert to possible flash flooding as rain is expected to continue during the next few days.

Gov. Susana Martinez is traveling to three communities to inspect damage from flooding since last week, when heavy rains inundated what had been a drought-parched state.

Among her stops is Santa Rosa in eastern New Mexico, where officials are seeking a disaster declaration because flooding washed out roads and buckled pavement.

Officials continue to warn of possible flooding because even moderate rainfall can push swollen rivers out of their banks, and normally dry washes can quickly fill with fast-moving water.

Rain was expected Tuesday mostly in the north-central mountains and eastern New Mexico.

UPDATE 9/16 6a: 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. Parts of Albuquerque have seen more than 4 inches, marking the wettest September on record for the city.

Find localized rainfall measurements on the NWS Rain Event Map.

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.

Crews have been working since Friday to lessen pressure on a dam near Crownpoint – it was expected to fail last night, but a flash flood warning was cancelled when officials said the dam was expected to hold after all.

UPDATE 9/15 10a: New Mexico State police say a man has died after his vehicle washed into a ravine covered in mud near the Elephant Butte dam.

New Mexico State Police Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said authorities discovered the vehicle Saturday next to State Road 51 in Ash Canyon.

Gutierrez says vehicle was washed off the roadway, probably Friday during flooding.

The man's name was not released.

The death is the first related to massive flooding in New Mexico this week from record heavy rains and overflowing rivers.

Gov. Susana Martinez issued a state of emergency on Friday to open up recovery funding for local communities hit hard by the flooding.

UPDATE 9/14 10a: A flood warning for New Mexico's largest city has been canceled as water levels for Rio Grande slow.

The National Weather Service said Saturday that the river is expected to crest at 6.5 feet. Flood stage is at 8 feet.

A day after parts of the state saw "life threatening" floods, Albuquerque officials were worried that runoff water in the Rio Grande could cause the river's level to rise up to 12 feet above normal. That would result in potential bosque flooding throughout the city and Bernalillo County.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry is scheduled Saturday to outline details and possible emergency plans.

City officials have reopened bosque trials around the Rio Grande.

Some residents in Las Vegas and Truth or Consequence were ordered to evacuate Friday due to flooding.


UPDATE 4p: Governor Susana Martinez has declared a state of emergency because of flooding across New Mexico. 

KOB-TV reports the executive order clears the way for federal assistance. 

UPDATE 2p: The Bureau of Land Management is warning the people of Albuquerque to steer clear of the Rio Grande Bosque as water from the recent storm system makes it's way through New Mexico. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports over the next 4 to 6 hours, a large flow of water will pass through the Albuquerque stretch of the Rio Grande. 

Bosque hikers and cyclists are warned to stay away from under bridges and paths along the river and ditches. 

Also, officials are discouraging people from flocking to the river's edge to take videos and pictures of the flood waters. 

Observed and predicted volume of water flowing in the Rio Grande at the Central Ave. bridge in Albuquerque.
Credit National Weather Service


According to their Facebook Page, the Navajo Technical University has evacuated staff and ordered students to retreat to efficiency housing. 

Credit https://www.facebook.com/NavajoTech?hc_location=timeline

Residents are evacuating as heavy rain has caused rivers to overflow in two New Mexico cities and prompted a flash flood watch across much of the state.

KRQE-TV has details on evacuations across the state. 

In southern New Mexico, Truth or Consequences officials say people around the Las Animas and Palomas creeks have been told to leave their homes. It was not immediately clear how many residents were affected, but authorities are concerned because the Rio Grande has surged its banks.


In northern New Mexico, the Las Vegas Optic reports major flooding has forced the evacuation of homes, schools and businesses near the overflowing Gallinas River. And Los Alamos police say there has been canyon flooding along with sporadic residential floods.


On Thursday, National Guard troops and other rescue personnel evacuated dozens of campers and residents stranded by floodwaters along the Pecos River in southeastern New Mexico. The city of Carlsbad set up P.R. Leyva Junior High School as an evacuation site.

The problems stem from the same storm system that has battered Colorado, causing at least three deaths.

Flood Warnings

Credit National Weather Service

A flash flood watch remains in effect Friday for much of New Mexico even as forecasters say drenching rain from recent days appears to slacking.

The watch area includes much of northern and central New Mexico, including Albuquerque.

On the National Weather Service's map of warning in effect in New Mexico on your right:

  • Red = Flash Flood Warning
  • Bright Green = Flood Warning
  • Dark Green = Flash Flood Watch
  • Sea Green = Flood Advisory

Forecast: More Heavy Rain

Rain continued to fall over much of northern and western New Mexico early Friday as showers drifted northward.

Overnight rainfall amounts were generally expected to amount to seven tenths of an inch, but the National Weather Service cautions that heavier showers may fill arroyos and ditches and block low-water road crossings.


Water flow measurement at the Otowi Gauge on the Rio Grand, data from the USGS.
Credit http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nm/nwis/uv?cb_00060=on&cb_00065=on&format=gif_stats&period=&begin_date=2013-09-06&end_date=2013-09-13&site_no=08313000 / USGS
Total rainfall predictions through 6pm Sunday.
Credit National Weather Service

Heavy rains have dominated the weather forecasts across much of the state this week. Some areas in eastern New Mexico have seen almost 4 inches of rain so far. That's more than double the average amount of moisture that usually falls in the entire month of September.

The wet weather began early Tuesday and is expected to hang around through Thursday afternoon bringing record breaking rainfall to eastern Arizona, southern Colorado, and much of New Mexico.  

Kerry Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, says the rain, so far, has caused significant flooding in parts of southern New Mexico. "When you have that amount of rain," he explained, "that volume of water has to go somewhere. You’re having issues on roads. The culverts just can’t handle that volume of wate,r and so things start to build up really quick. And it persists because this rain lasted, not 30 minutes but on the order of 4 and 5 hours."

However, Jones said, when it comes to the drought, this storm system is a nice shot in the arm, but total rain deficits remain high.