This Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013 photo shows destroyed culvert pipes used to support a section of Road 562 over a stream in Upper Fruitland, N.M. The section of the Road 562 washed out after a storm early Friday, morning, Sept. 13, 2013. Days after heavy rains and strong floods washed out roads, damaged water systems and destroyed homes, New Mexico residents on Wednesday began the long path to cleaning up, and authorities searched for a least one missing person. (AP Photo/The Daily Times, Jon Austria)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Days after heavy rains and strong floods washed out roads, damaged water systems and destroyed homes, New Mexico residents on Wednesday began the long path to cleaning up, and authorities searched for a least one missing person.
From isolated western towns to border communities, state officials rushed to restore power and water service and repair roads in areas devastated by last week’s severe weather.
Meanwhile, heavy rainfall north of Espanola flooded about six homes in Rio Arriba County on Wednesday.
County spokeswoman Erica Martinez said some of the homes were “halfway under water” but “nobody’s life appears in danger” and residents were able to safely evacuate.
Espanola officials were opening a shelter for any flood victims.
The rains, though needed amid months of severe drought, resulted in millions of dollars in damage and caused more headaches for an already aging infrastructure, officials said.
In Madrid, residents worked to remove coal-soaked mud that seeped into homes and stores after a flash flood brought not only water throughout the mountain artist hamlet but coal from nearby abandoned mines.
“I don’t think I’ll ever see anything like this ever again here,” Jezebel gallery manager Claudia Cielensky told KRQE-TV. “Nothing’s ruined, thankfully. But there’s definitely some damage to clean up.”
Catron County officials say they were working to re-establish basic services to residents along several drainages near Glenwood and Mogollon.
The area in the Gila National Forest was still recovering from a wildfire last year that was the largest in state history. It received around 8 inches of rain last week, destroying roads and flooding homes.
At least one man, Howard Bassett, was reported missing after he was evacuated Saturday from the Silver Creek Inn in Mogollon and did not return to collect his possessions, New Mexico State Police said. The 83-year-old Arizona man drove off in a Chevy Colorado with Arizona license plates, police said.
Gov. Susana Martinez toured the flood-ravaged Gila region Tuesday and was scheduled to visit Carlsbad on Wednesday, her office said. Flooding in Carlsbad prompted evacuations last week.
On the Navajo Nation, Route 562 washed out last week when a 72-inch culvert collapsed because of rain. That divided the loop that travels from the old Navajo 36 road in Upper Fruitland.
The gap is wide enough to fit a double-wide trailer, and remnants of the culvert sit in the stream bed. Officials were working on plans to repair the road.
In La Union, residents worked to shovel out debris, but with one eye open for isolated showers that were still expected in pockets of the state.
One resident, Evangelina Martinez, told KVIA-TV that she was just trying to “recuperate a life” she had a few days before a nearby dam broke and water entered her house.
“Yesterday, I was getting ready to go for my walk, getting back to normal again, and it started raining a little. I was like, ‘Please, Lord, no more,” Martinez said.
Residents elsewhere in the state had other concerns.
New Mexico Environment Department officials told private well owners to open all the faucets indoors and flush chlorine through the system. That’s because officials estimate flooded sewers contaminated more than 2,000 water wells around the state.
“There are more problems right now than we have people,” said Dennis McQuillan, the department’s source water protection manager.