An automobile rests off of N. Sycamore on Thursday after being swept away by the raging flood waters of Berrendo Creek during Wednesday’s monsoon rains. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Residents, businesses, farmers and local officials assessed damage across Roswell Thursday following the flash flooding of Berrendo Creek.
But as water continued to wash through drainage ditches, the Pecos River nearby breached its banks and began slowly flooding pastures.
“We’ve got almost three times as much water as the banks will contain,” said Chaves County Flood Control Superintendent Dick Smith. “They’re going to have problems on down the river.”
Eight homes were evacuated early on River Road, displacing more families. A shelter, set up by the county Wednesday night for homeowners of a subdivision off West Country Club that was cut off by flooding, was kept open to accommodate additional residents in need of assistance.
Total rainfall was estimated at 5.2 inches in the area southwest of Roswell as of Wednesday night. In town, areas received 4-6 inches, Smith said.
Flood management officials plan to open the Two Rivers Dam today to start relieving the excess flood water through the region, Smith said. The water will pass through Roswell in the Hondo River channel. Residents should notice the Hondo River begin to flow escessively as a result.
“We were waiting until the local water drained off,” Smith said.
The dam is 15 miles southwest of Roswell.
Officials were still attempting to assess total property damage caused by the rainfall and flooding Thursday.
A bridge on Urton Road that crossed the Berrendo Creek was destroyed by the rushing current and debris.
“It got knocked down, and water got into a house right there,” Smith said.
The flooding also ran across farms and damaged irrigation systems.
“We had a quite a bit of damage,” Smith said. “We really don’t have a complete picture of everything that happened.“
Officials are waiting until the water recedes to better assess the damage, he said.
Larry Wagner, a 35-year farmer, lost a number of calves and heifers, and 70 acres of hay fields in the flooding. The rushing water ripped away fencing and flooded his pastures.
“It flooded quite a bit of my country and my hay fields,” Wagner said.
Wagner’s ranch hands searched his land, some of which saddles Red Bridge Road, for his cattle. They found most of them, but many were missing. He estimated he had some 100.
“We found most of them, but we’re short some,” Wagner said. “I imagine they floated away.”
Many dead deer were found in the area. Wagner said he thinks his livestock likely met the same end.
“The water was 20 feet deep in some of my hay fields,” Wager said.
The 70 acres of fields, now strewn with large debris and trees stumps, will be abandoned until his crews can rebuild fencing to keep his cattle away from the hay.
“That’s farming,” Wagner said. “It’s just something you work around.”
Some Xcel Energy customers lost power just after 9:20 p.m. Wednesday for about an hour.
A power pole caught fire on West Alameda Street and South Eisenhower Road near the Capitan substation, according to Xcel Spokesman Wes Reeves.
“They isolated it around that pole and had to reroute the power supply to a majority of customers,” Reeves said. “It was in some says weather related.”
Xcel crews are continuing to monitor the situation as several power poles remain surrounded by rushing water and floating debris, and could still dislodge, Reeves said.
The Roswell Museum and Art Center staff was kept busy protecting art collections, mopping and vacuuming water from its Marshall-Winston Gallery Wednesday night.
Water began leaking during the rainfall, causing staff to immediately remove all art from a central area of the museum and close it off to the public.
“We had some leaks, but it’s all under control. Protecting all the collections is our first mission,” said Stephen Vollmer, assistant director. “We monitored it all night and may do it tonight. We’re waiting for it to dry out a little bit.”
The area affected will remain closed.
The New Mexico Department of Transportation closed several state routes due to flooding in Carlsbad, Artesia and other areas.
Pine Lodge Road between Roswell and Capital, also known as State Route 246 at mile marker 55-61, was closed Thursday afternoon. Rockers were on almost all the area roads, said Manon Arnett, NMDOT public information officer.
State Route 137 was closed from flooding in Carlsbad. State Route 229 was closed from flooding in Artesia. State Route 249 was closed. And, State Route 252 from mile marker 0-12 was closed from flooding in the Ft. Sumner area.
For more information on road closures, visit nmroads.com.
Lt. Britt Snyder of the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office said deputies assisted in pulling motorists from their vehicles Wednesday, after they stalled in the high waters of Berrendo Creek.
“Both were driving around the barricades,” Snyder said.
Snyder cautioned motorists to obey the barricades for their own safety.
Chaves County Emergency Manager Karen Sanders said Thursday was an uneventful day, with few damages.
“The water just takes a little time to recede,” Sanders said.
Sanders said she made the decision Wednesday not to activate the 12-alarm emergency siren system to alert Roswell-area residents to the impending flood situation.
“I did not and would not have activated them,” Sanders said. “With all of the flooding and raining, the last thing we needed was people leaving their homes and driving.”
The water in Berrendo Creek remained in the creek bed, “where it was supposed to be,” Sanders said.
“We had time to evacuate the homeless and to barricade the streets,” Sanders said. “We knocked on all the doors that we needed to. When you activate those alarms, that causes a sensation of panic. We had it under control.”
The City of Roswell reported few problems with its infrastructure.
One main sewer line near the Roswell Mall suffered damage, said City Manager Larry Fry.
“At this point, we’re not aware of significant damage being done to the infrastructure,” Fry said. “We have to wait until the water recedes fully. “No one is out of water or sewer service at this point. Given the circumstances, it could be a lot worse.”
Superintendent Tom Burris of the Roswell Independent School District said some busses were rerouted but all school children made it home. School staff was up early to check the routes and made the decision to go ahead and send the busses to school on time.
Locals continued to visit the Berrendo Creek Thursday as it flowed over streets.
Melissa Steen had just graduated high school in 1991, the last time the Berrendo Creek flooded the city, she said.
“It just goes to show you, you can see this more than once in a lifetime,” Steen said.
She was waiting Thursday to hear from her father, who lives in Hagerman. That area was expected to be hard hit from heavy flows down the Rio Felix.
“I’m expecting a phone call,” Steen said.
Rod Tricarico said he was on North Montana when he said a “wall of water came through.”
“That water just came in within 30 minutes,” Tricarico said. “It came in that fast. It was pretty crazy.”