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Woman drowns after rain turns arroyos into raging rivers

A pedestrian tries to dodge the buckets of rain falling in Downtown Albuquerque Monday afternoon. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Monday afternoon’s thunderstorm turned the city’s diversion channels into raging rivers, sweeping up six people and killing one of them, according to a spokesman for the Albuquerque Fire Department.

The deceased, a woman, was recovered Monday evening from where the North Diversion Channel empties into the Rio Grande.

Lt. Tom Ruiz said around 3 p.m., shortly after the rain began to pelt the city, multiple people began calling 911 about people stuck in the arroyos.

“At that point AFD dispatched several crews and several resources to six different staging locations on the arroyos,” Ruiz said.

He said crews rescued one person near Eubank and Interstate 40, three others a little bit west, near Eubank and Lomas NE, and another was across town near Montgomery and Interstate 25.

Then, Ruiz said, the swift-water rescue team recovered a woman’s body from the North Diversion Outfall Sedimentation Basin near Roy and Second NW.

He did not identify the woman and said the Office of the Medical Investigator will confirm her cause of death, but they believe she drowned.

The Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority reported Monday that the water was as high as 8 feet in places, and Ruiz said it can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour.

He said people get swept up in the arroyos every year, so all AFD personnel are trained on swift-water rescue techniques. Dozens of firefighters assisted with Monday’s rescues and recovery and three fire department trucks were at each staging location.

Ruiz said the people rescued from the arroyo were most likely already in there when the rain started and were caught off guard when the water began to rush down the steep-walled channels. He did not know their purpose for being in the channels.

“With the intensity and the speed to which this storm came in it was the very definition of a flash flood,” he said. “Which reminds us all that the arroyos are no place to live, no place to play, no place to be around anytime a storm comes through Albuquerque.”