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Storm breaks records as cleanup begins

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —  

4:20 p.m. — Albuquerque mayor Richard Berry called the storm that pummeled Albuquerque and other parts of the state Friday night a “Category 1 hurricane”, and he asked residents to check on their neighbors as he outlined resources for folks preparing for another storm.

Sand bags are available at all Albuquerque fire stations, and piles of sand can be found at stations 1, 6, 7, 18 and 19, Berry said. Police and firefighters have been out all day doing damage assessments and responding to calls for service.

Some 5,950 households were still without power Saturday afternoon, down from more than 30,000. PNM officials said that it’s not possible to predict when those customers will again have power.

“Some customers may be out for quite some time due to the severity of the damage caused by the microburst, unfortunately. We know it is frustrating. We will try to keep you posted,” PNM posted on its Facebook page.

Berry and police chief Ray Schultz patrolled the city until 1:30 a.m. last night, the mayor said, surveying damage and assessing what the costs could be. Berry said that the early Friday morning storm, which hurled huge thunder claps and brilliant flashes of lightning all over the city, cost $500,000. That doesn’t even include the Friday night storm, which appears to have been more damaging.

The city’s Senior Affairs division is doing welfare checks around the city, Berry said, but he asked residents to look out for each other, knock on doors and make sure neighbors are fine.

“Check on them,” Berry said. “Make sure they’re doing OK.”

As of 12 p.m., 25 traffic signals were out of power. That means drivers should treat those intersections as a four-way stop.

Elsewhere, Bridge between Fourth and Eighth Street was closed as crews repaired damages, and four city pools — Valley, Rio Grande, Highland and Sunport — were closed.

The Rio Grande Zoo saw no injuries to animals or humans during the storm, which caused the abrupt cancellation of a Friday night concert. Watching this video of the storm at the zoo, it’s surprising no one was hurt.

The zoo will reopen tomorrow, but was closed today. Concertgoers who abandoned personal property can describe their lost items to zoo staff in order to retrieve them, Berry said.

An emergency radio communications tower struck by lightning early Friday morning was not at “100 percent”, the police chief said, but officers have been doubling up, using cell phones and using other backup methods to prevent any impact in emergency response. The tower is expected to be fixed in the next 24 hours.

 

Keep with ABQJournal.com for updates.

 

 

2 p.m. A flash flood watch for part of northern and central New Mexico, including for the Albuquerque metro area, is in effect through late tonight, according to the National Weather Service.

“Abundant moisture already in place will increase further this afternoon and evening as a weak disturbance draws even deeper moisture from Arizona into New Mexico,” the Weather Service says. “Slow moving thunderstorms with rainfall rates near 2 inches per hour are possible with the stronger thunderstorms.”

The Friday night thunderstorm that hit the Duke City turned out to be a record breaker.

The Weather Service reports that a record rainfall of 1.36 inches was set in the city on Friday. “It breaks the old record of 0.85 inches set in 1939,” according to the agency.

Some parts of the Valley received nearly 2.5 inches of rain since Friday afternoon.

Also, the 89 mph gust measured at the Albuquerque International Sunport on Friday at 7:36 p.m. “is the strongest gust recorded at Albuquerque Sunport since 1939.”

The two days of rain have turned the Rio Grande into a river again, if only temporarily. Flows on the Rio Grande peaked at 3,070 cubic feet per second at the Central Avenue bridge in Albuquerque at around 10 a.m. this morning, the highest flow since the spring runoff in 2010.

Today, residents cleaned up and authorities worked to fix traffic lights and restore power to thousands affected by the Friday night storm.

Emergency management officials urged residents to avoid major roadways as workers battle the aftermath of floods and downed trees and utility lines, The Associated Press reported.

Authorities said most of the water that created havoc on streets had receded today and street signs or police officers had been placed at more than two dozen intersections to handle malfunctioning traffic signals, the AP said. Officials said the storm also caused minor damage to a levy.

“Right now we need time to restore basic services,” Director of Emergency Management Roger Ebner said in a statement. “The best thing the public can do is to stay home, relax and enjoy their weekend while crews work to restore power, clean the roadways and assist motorists.”

Police said that traffic control officers or street signs were at more than two dozen intersections to handle malfunctioning traffic signals, according to the AP report.


 

1:45 p.m. Albuquerque Public Schools was reeling from Friday night’s storm on Saturday, with maintenance crews called in for clean-up and principals called in to inspect their school buildings.

“We got hammered,” said APS Superintendent Winston Brooks. He said crews began working at 3 a.m., and he directed every principal to go to their school and walk through each classroom checking for damages.


 

 

One of the most intense thunderstorms in recent memory slammed into the Albuquerque metropolitan area Friday night, flooding streets, toppling power lines and leaving more than 27,000 people without electricity.

Gusts of nearly 90 mph blew past the Albuquerque International Sunport, and police had to shut down a section of Interstate 25 from the Big I to Rio Bravo to clean up power lines that fell near Gibson Boulevard. Flooding and stalled vehicles were also reported near Alameda and Rio Grande and along Coors between Eagle Ranch and Irving. Trees were uprooted and debris was strewn about.

“Metro experienced one of the most intense rain, severe wind-producing storms in recent memory, if not on record,” the National Weather Service in Albuquerque posted on Twitter on Friday evening.

An inch of rain fell Friday evening at the Sunport, and northeastern parts of the city also saw between 1.6 and 1.8 inches of rain, according to preliminary reports.

And it fell quickly.

Mark Summerlin, 24, was driving his parents’ Buick sedan west on Central Avenue under the Downtown bridge, which had flooded, when his car stalled. He sat in his vehicle as water levels rose, and continued rising, to above the center console.

“It started getting higher, so then I called 911,” Summerlin told the Journal on Friday. “… Once they got there they just pulled me out of the car and walked me out.”

An Albuquerque firefighter hoisted Summerlin onto his shoulders and walked out from under the bridge as waters reached to above chest.

“I was very anxious to get out of the car,” Summerlin said.

The Buick, which sat empty under the bridge until around 11 p.m., entered the underpass behind several other vehicles, Summerlin said, and still others passed him when he stalled.

“It seemed like it was about to get through, but then it just died out,” he said. “I should have got a Jeep or something like that.”

Apart from the flooding, the storm knocked out power in areas all over the city. PNM crews had to wait for a couple of hours before they deemed it safe enough to begin restoring power to the 27,581 homes without power.

More than 2.7 inches of rain have fallen at the Sunport this month, making it the 10th wettest July on record, the National Weather Service reported Friday night.

When the storm left the city, it continued south. A National Weather Service meteorologist said the storm didn’t appear to lose intensity as it moved south, though the service received only one report of a flooded road in Belen. More damage will likely be assessed today, she said.

Flooding damage was also reported at the ABQ BioPark zoo and other parts of the BioPark, prompting officials there to close the zoo today, and possibly even close the botanic garden and aquarium, which were left without power. Today, staff was going to be cleaning up tree limbs and other storm debris.

Also, attendees of the Luke Bryan concert at the Isleta Amphitheater had to flee to their vehicles when the storm hit. The show was quickly cancelled, leaving the musician “bummed,” according to his Twitter page.

The National Weather Service reported gusts of up to 89 mph at the Sunport.

A flash flood warning was extended twice Friday night, from 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. That warning included all of Bernalillo, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties, and officials warned that, even though the heaviest rains didn’t fall for more than a few hours, the flash flood danger persisted in area ditches and arroyos.

Albuquerque police even had to call in additional officers to help deal with damage large and small all over the city, and officers were still directing traffic off the Interstate as of 10 p.m. They warned drivers to stay out of underpasses underneath Interstate 40 and Third through Sixth streets.

The levee at Bridge and Central was also damaged and potentially dangerous to the public, police said.

A weaker storm system was expected for today but the potential for flash flooding is forecast to persist until things start to dry out on Sunday.


  • Firefighter Jason Paiz carries Mark Summerlin, 24, of Bosque Farms out from under a Downtown underpass Friday night during a massive thunderstorm that caused flooding, damage and huge power outages across the city. The car Summerlin was driving, his parents’ Buick sedan, stalled under the bridge as waters reached 4 to 5 feet deep. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

  • A minivan floats below the Central Avenue bridge in Downtown Albuquerque on Friday night. Cars were stalled in underpasses below Interstate 40 from Third Street to Sixth Street. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

  • Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office deputies closed Avenida César Chávez due to the metro area flooding Friday night. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

  • Friday night Downtown plans were extinguished for many Albuquerque residents thanks to the torrential rain that hit all across Albuquerque. Here, a woman trudges across Gold Street near the intersection at First Street. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

  • Strong winds toppled these two trees onto the front porch of a house on Walter SE on Friday evening. (Morgan Petroski/Journal)

  • Lightning, wind, and rain over Albuquerque left many without power Friday night, July 27, 2013. (Morgan Petroski/Journal)

  • Traffic makes its way through a flooded Gold Street between 2nd and 3rd in Albuquerque, July 27, 2013. (Morgan Petroski/Journal)


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