MON: Southwest In Grip Of Heat And Drought, + More

Aug 31, 2020

Heat, Drought Make For Miserable Combo For Southwest US - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

It's grim news for the western U.S. The latest maps show most of the southern half of the region is mired by drought, with the most extreme conditions centered over parts of Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado.

State Climatologist Dave Dubois in New Mexico says drought has been compounded by an early peak in spring runoff and now a nearly nonexistent monsoon season. That has left communities from Dulce near the northern border to Los Lunas in central New Mexico lagging behind for the first eight months of the year.

He warns that many measures — such as precipitation, soil moisture, reservoir levels and stream flows — are all below average around New Mexico. Conditions are similar throughout the Southwest.

The dry conditions already have forced some cities along the Rio Grande in New Mexico to stop diverting water from the river. Stretches south of Albuquerque already have gone dry as the summer rains that officials were hoping for did not materialize.

This is supposed to be the time of year that New Mexico gets as much as 50% of its annual precipitation.

The cottonwood forest along the river north of Albuquerque is starting to change colors, with leaves turning yellow and dropping off due to the lack of water.

The dryness has been exacerbated by warmer temperatures. In New Mexico, DuBois said many locations have seen temperatures between 3 and 7 degrees above average.

The outlook for September doesn't appear to bring much relief to the region as probability favors lower precipitation and higher temperatures across much of the region.

Drought also is expected to persist through November, and forecasters say it's looking likely that a La Nina weather pattern is setting up for the winter. That typically means drier and warmer conditions for New Mexico.

New Mexico Decides On Relief Funding For Local GovernmentsAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's administration has reached a decision on how to distribute $100 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to local governments.

Finance agency spokesman Henry Valdez said Monday that county and municipal governments were being notified and details will be made public Tuesday.

The state is taking into consideration local compliance with its emergency health orders that can be costly to local governments. That has also led to concerns of possible favoritism amid clashes between local and state officials over the governor's approach to reopening the economy.

Applications for relief funding have far exceeded the amount that is available.

The Department of Finance and Administration says it received requests for $192 million from 83 local governments for the $100 million that is available.

State health officials announced 73 newly identified coronavirus cases on Monday and nine virus-related deaths, bringing total pandemic fatalities to 779.

New Mexico saw improvements in major indicators related to the spread of the virus, as a rolling daily average for deaths fell below four.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in New Mexico declined over the past two weeks, going from 2.6% on Aug. 16 to 1.9% on Aug. 30, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

That's the lowest positivity rate in the western U.S. Comparing seven-day averages of new cases smooths out anomalies in the data, including delays in test results.

At the same time, gross receipts taxes on sales and services were bolstered for several months by spending linked to a $600 weekly federal supplement to unemployment benefits.

That supplement expired in late July, and the state has been awarded a $300 weekly federal supplement to unemployment payouts through at least mid-August.

As many as six counties have experienced increases in gross receipts tax income linked to construction spending, the executive director of the association of counties, Steve Kopelman, told lawmakers last week.

About half of the state's 33 counties have instituted hiring freezes and some are resorting to staff furloughs to reduce spending.

Deadline Arrives For Relief Funding To Local GovernmentAssociated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's administration is reaching a decision on how to distribute $100 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to local governments.

Finance agency spokesman Henry Valdez said Monday that award letters are being delivered to county and municipal governments.

The state is taking into consideration local compliance with its emergency health orders that can be costly to local governments. That has also led to concerns of possible favoritism amid clashes between local and state officials over the governor's approach to reopening the economy.

Applications for relief funding have far exceeded the amount that is available.

New Mexico health officials Monday reported 73 additional COVID-19 cases and nine more deaths, including a woman in Doña Ana County in her 40s who apparently did not have an any underlying health conditions.

The number of deaths of New Mexicans related to COVID-19 is 779 and there have been 25,352 cases since the pandemic began

Oil And Gas Lease Sale Nets $8M For New Mexico, Other States - Associated Press

Federal land managers say the latest oil and gas lease sale for parcels in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas netted more than $8.2 million. 

The Bureau of Land Management said nearly half of the revenues earned from last week's sale will go to the states where the leases are located. 

The funds are often used for infrastructure projects, law enforcement and other government programs. 

In all, 113 parcels totaling more than 76 square miles were offered. 

The highest bid per acre topped $21,500 with the lease of 120 acres in southeastern New Mexico to Santa Fe-based Federal Abstract Company.

The Bureau of Land Management awards oil and gas leases for a 10-year term and as long thereafter as there is production of oil and gas in paying quantities. If the leases result in producing oil or gas wells, revenue from royalties based on production is also shared with the state.

New Mexico Reports 107 New Coronavirus Cases, 1 More Death - Associated Press

Health officials in New Mexico reported 107 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and one additional death on Sunday. 

The latest numbers from the New Mexico Department of Health increase the state's totals to 25,283 cases and 770 deaths. 

Officials say 28 of the new cases were reported in Chaves County, 22 in Bernalillo County, and 18 others in Lea County. The 12 other counties that confirmed new positive tests Sunday had new cases in the single digits. 

The newest COVID-related death in New Mexico was a Lea County resident in his 60s. 

As of Sunday, there were 66 individuals hospitalized in the state for COVID-19.

Navajo Nation Reports 11 New COVID-19 Cases, 1 New DeathAssociated Press

Navajo Nation health officials report 11 new confirmed cases of coronavirus and one additional death.

The latest numbers released Sunday bring the total number of people infected to 9,800 with 502 known deaths. Tribal health officials said 94,403 people have been tested for COVID-19 and 7,057 have recovered.

The Navajo Nation lifted its stay-at-home order on Aug. 16, but is asking residents to leave their homes only for emergencies or essential activities.

Much of the Navajo Nation has been closed since March as the coronavirus swept through the vast reservation that extends into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.  

Navajo Nation Reports 9 New Coronavirus Cases, 1 More Death - Associated Press

Navajo Nation health officials report nine new confirmed cases of coronavirus and one additional death. 

The latest numbers released Saturday night bring the total number of cases on the reservation to 9,789 with 501 known deaths. 

Tribal health officials say 94,287 people have been tested for COVID-19 and 7,054 have recovered. 

The Navajo Nation lifted its stay-at-home order on Aug. 16, but is asking residents to leave their homes only for emergencies or essential activities.  

 

Fans Hope Marvel Comic Book Improves Native Representation - By Terry Tang Associated Press

Native American comic book fans hope a new Marvel anthology by Indigenous artists and writers will jump-start authentic representation in mainstream superhero fare. 

"Marvel Voices: Indigenous Voices #1" is expected in November during Native American History Month and will revisit some of its Native characters. 

Marvel says the project was planned long before the nation's reckoning over racial injustice, which has prompted changes like the Washington NFL team changing its name and dropping its mascot. 

The lead artist for the comic book, Jeffrey Veregge, says the series is correcting a decades-old problem of Native American or Indigenous representation in the medium.

Lee Francis IV, owner of Red Planet Books & Comics in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and an independent publisher of Native comics, helped find up-and-coming Native artists to join the Marvel anthology. 

An organizer of an annual Indigenous Comic Con who's Laguna Pueblo, Francis said comic books aren't far off from some tribes' storytelling traditions.

Racist stereotypes found their way into the medium because comic book artists often relied on what they saw in movie and TV Westerns, Francis said. And before Westerns, political cartoons dating to the 1700s demonized or ridiculed Native people. 

1 Dead After A Big Rig Rolls Over Along I-40 In Albuquerque - KRQE-TV, Associated Press

Authorities say at least one person is dead after a rollover crash involving a big rig along Interstate 40 in Albuquerque. 

Bernalillo County Sheriff's officials say the crash occurred late Saturday night four miles west of the Route 66 Casino. 

KRQE-TV reports traffic was closed on the interstate until early Sunday morning. No arrests have been made and the cause of the multi-vehicle accident remains unclear.

Authorities didn't immediately release the name of the person who died or provide more information about the fatal crash.

New Mexico Governor Regrets Criticizing Española Over Masks - Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is apologizing for claiming residents of Española aren't wearing masks during the pandemic. 

The governor said in a statement Friday that she regrets her words gave an inaccurate impression of the town of 10,000. 

Lujan Grisham said their efforts to fight COVID-19 are making an enormous difference. The governor singled out Española during a news conference Thursday, saying she didn't see anyone wearing a mask when she recently drove through there.

 

Española Mayor Javier Sanchez slammed her comments, saying it felt like "getting punched in the gut." He says it's bad enough people already stereotype Española as high in poverty and crime.

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