A flood flow from this week’s massive storm passed through Albuquerque uneventfully overnight, with a lower and earlier peak than water managers had expected.
“It didn’t peak nearly as much as they thought it might have in Albuquerque,” said Mary Carlson of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Reclamation sounded the alarm Friday afternoon after major flood flows raised the Rio Grande’s flow at north of Bernalillo to levels that were unprecedented in recent decades. But the peak seems to have dissipated on its way to Albuquerque as water flowed out of the river into lowlands and side channels that have been built in recent years to provide habitat for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow and other plants and animals, Carlson said.
Flows at the Central Avenue Bridge in Albuquerque peaked at around midnight last night, an hour earlier than expected, with a flow measured by the U.S. Geological Survey of 4,320 cubic feet per second, 80 times higher than the drought-sapped flows of less than a week ago. That is less than the 6,000-7,000 cfs peak the Bureau had projected, apparently in large part because the habitat restoration sites upstream absorbed a substantial part of the flow, Carlson said.
Up and down the river this morning, residents turned out at river bridges to watch the flood go by.
The Alameda pedestrian bridge on Albuquerque’s north side was a popular view spot, and Isleta Pueblo police and Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District officials at one point had to chase off spectators who had wandered onto the district’s Isleta diversion dam as the high waters rolled by.
Flows this morning are still extremely high in Valencia County, but no levee problems have been reported there, according to Carlson. Water managers are closely watching the situation from there south, with big flood flows still making their way toward Socorro County on the Rio Grande with a possibility of large inflows from the Rio Puerco that could compound the rising river.