Officials record 100-year rainfall amounts

September 17, 2013 • Local News

Joe Hicks stands beside a shed Monday that was moved 20 feet off the ground and slammed against his home when flood waters rushed through his property on Georgia Street off the Relief Route in Roswell. (Jill McLaughlin Photo)

Last week’s flooding and heavy rainfall that cut a swath of muddy destruction through southeast New Mexico might have been at least a 50-year event, officials said Monday.

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque recorded measurements in Chaves County that even surpassed the 100-year storm mark.

Unprecedented precipitation that poured onto the Arabella region Tuesday flowed down either the Blackwater Draw or California Draw and caused the majority of flooding in Roswell, said Chaves County Flood Control Superintendent Dick Smith.

Rain amounts in those areas reached 8-10 inches.

“A 100-year storm would be 5 inches,” Smith said. “The ranch up there (near the California Draw) got 10.5 inches of rain. That’s overnight.”

One station near Bonita Lake recorded 8.10 inches. A rain gauge near [auth] Fort Stanton got 4.22, Arabella took in 3.95, and a gauge 4 miles south/southeast of Roswell reported 5.10 inches since Tuesday, according to Troy Marshall, a NWS technician.

“We got a phone call earlier that referred to this flooding as a 50-year event for the state,” Marshall said.

Widespread flooding throughout the state prompted Susana Martinez to issue a state of emergency Friday. The declaration opened up recovery funding for roads. She toured affected areas Saturday and Monday, and reportedly said she expects to make additional emergency declarations.

Chaves County so far has not been included in the state declaration of emergency.

Flash flood watches remained in effect Monday as the Rio Felix overtopped its banks throughout the county. Localized flooding hit roads, already closed to traffic by the river’s flooding last week.

The flooding was expected to hit the Pecos River Monday night, impacting the Pecos River downstream, according to the NWS.

But the region is expected to get some relief in the days ahead.

The forecast is improving,” Marshall said.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms are forecasted for today and Wednesday, with slight chances of additional moisture throughout the week, he said.

Residents in a neighborhood off the Relief Route at West McGaffey Street and Georgia Road continued to mop up after a wave of runoff flowed through their manufactured homes and into a nearby corn field.

Joe and Alice Hicks awoke late at night Wednesday when a large shed behind their home lifted off its foundation and crashed into their bedroom.

“That’s what alarmed us to what was going on,” Joe Hicks said.

The water poured into their home, reaching two-feet high. By the time they fled, the water outside was chest high, Alice Hicks said.

The couple tried to drive away in their SUV, only to get swept away in the street. They were rescued by fire and emergency personnel.

“There was no alarm,” Joe Hicks said. “No one warned us.”

The home and all its contents suffered water damage. The Hicks had insurance, but not flood insurance, the Hicks’ said. They are staying in a motel until their carpet can be replaced and are hoping for federal assistance.

“We’re devastated,” Alice Hicks said.

The neighborhood’s sudden rush of water came from local runoff that hit a series of hills behind the homes, Smith said.

“It ran down the Spring River,” Smith said. “It jumped over Sycamore, behind the car dealers. It jumped clear over the road. It was just local runoff. It just overpowered them.”

The New Mexico Department of Health issued a warning Monday asking residents to be aware of the hazards of standing water.

“Flood water and standing water pose various risks, including infectious diseases, chemical hazards, and injuries,” said NMDOH Spokesman David Morgan.

Residents were warned to watch out for animals, insects and reptiles. Mosquitoes may be present in standing pools of water.

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