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New Mexico Science

Science, climate, weather and water from a New Mexico perspective

Big flood flow headed Albuquerque’s way

The swollen Rio Grande, as seen from West Bluff Park, makes it way through Albuquerque as a thunderstorm drops rain in the valley. (Tyler Green/Journal)
The swollen Rio Grande, as seen from West Bluff Park, makes it way through Albuquerque as a thunderstorm drops rain in the valley. (Tyler Green/Journal)
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5:45 pm

Water manager now expect the peak of the coming flood flow through Albuquerque to arrive between 1 and 3 a.m., according to Mike Hamman, area manager of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Hamman and other water agency managers, at a late afternoon news conference, said to expect a slow steady rise in the Rio Grande, rather than any abrupt flooding. The river is likely to remain within the levees through Albuquerque, according to Hamman.

Gentle flows in the bosque itself are expected.

Crews from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District will be out overnight monitoring levees in the Bosque Farms area, which are older and less sturdy, but no overflows is expected based on current calculations of the flood’s flow, according to David Gensler of the Conservancy District.

5:25pm
Mayor Richard Berry said the storm surge is expected to hit Albuquerque sometime between 10 p.m. tonight and 2 a.m.

All trails in the bosque are closed for now, and they may re-open tomorrow, he said. Crews are in the bosque looking for homeless people and will “take them out of harm’s way,” Berry said.

Emergency crews are on standby, and community centers can be used as shelters, if needed. But the mayor said he doesn’t expect evacuations.

4:30pm
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is warning Albuquerque residents to stay out of the riverside bosque, as a flood flow heads down the river from Sandoval County.

Current flows at the U.S. Geological Survey’s San Felipe gauge, 8,900 cubic feet per second, is the highest river has been at that point since the early 1960s. With no dam to stop it, that flow will make its way through Albuquerque overnight, according to Mike Hamman, head of the Bureau’s Albuquerque office. The flood is expected to reach Isleta Dam sometime between midnight and 6 a.m., according to David Gensler of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.

Bureau hydrologist Carolyn Donnelly warned that anywhere on the river side of the levees through Albuquerque could be subject to overbank flooding, and cautioned against sites like the Rio Grande bike trail beneath the Central Avenue bridge and the bosque across the levees from the Rio Grande Nature Center.

The flow peaked quickly and then began dropping at San Felipe, suggesting there is a chance the flooding could “attenuate”, lessening as it moves downstream, according to Rolf Schmidt-Petersen of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission.

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