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Socorro County digs out after storm

A man clears mud along a building in San Antonio. (John Larson/El Defensor Chieftain)

SOCORRO – Federal programs to aid residents and farmers recovering from severe flooding that slammed Socorro County and the community of San Antonio earlier this week will be detailed at a public meeting this afternoon.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services and Natural Resources Conservation Service will host the 2 p.m. meeting at the San Antonio community center. Experts will discuss USDA programs available to San Antonio – a community better known for its green chile cheeseburger restaurants than for its mud-covered businesses still digging out in the deluge aftermath.

Sunday night and Monday morning, thunderstorms swept through Socorro County, causing a power outage to the Magdalena, Hop Canyon and Water Canyon areas, and burying much of San Antonio in up to two feet of mud.

N.M. 1 between the community of Luis Lopez and San Antonio was largely impassable early Monday because of water, mud, rocks and debris from the overflow of Walnut Creek arroyo. U.S. 380 was likewise mud-packed between east of the railroad tracks and Interstate 25.

The torrential wind and rain started at about 10:30 p.m. Sunday, said Janice Argabright of the Owl Bar and Café.

“It began picking up after that,” she said.

Mud completely surrounds a car on Tarryall Farm Road after storms caused flooding in San Antonio on Sunday night

Mud completely surrounds a car on Tarryall Farm Road after storms caused flooding in San Antonio on Sunday night. The car is owned by Pat Zamora. (Courtesy photo via El Defensor Chieftain)

The force of water flowing down from the Chupadera Mountains through San Antonio also dislocated a section of tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad north and south of the U.S. 380 crossing.

The Owl was spared the worst of the flash flood, but mud around the Crane Café was two feet deep or more, and Bobby Olguin of the Buckhorn Tavern was working with employees shoveling mud from around the parking lot Monday morning. Olguin hoped to reopen today.

The San Antonio Crane Café on Pino Street lost a walk-in cooler when rushing waters picked it up off the ground behind the restaurant, and carried it down the street and through a fence where it came to rest against the Catholic Church on N.M. 1. The Crane’s large propane tank took a similar route. A water stain on the south side of the restaurant shows splashing waves reached as high as 10 feet through the neighborhood.

A meeting called by Socorro County Emergency Management Coordinator Fred Hollis Monday afternoon was attended by over 40 officials from federal, state and local agencies.

Because of the intensity of the storm, “there is no way you can prepare for something like this,” Hollis said.

It’s not immediately known how much the flood will end up costing San Antonio’s residents and business community, but Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdelena, and Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, have been assessing the damage.

Mud covers a road in the San Antonio area

Mud covers a road in the San Antonio area. (John Larson/El Defensor Chieftain)

“We are working with local and state officials to bring assistance to this community as quickly as possible, and are encouraging the county to request an emergency declaration from Gov. Martinez,” the legislators said in a joint statement. “We are also encouraged by how quickly local officials have been working to gather the resources needed for relief during this difficult time.”

Farmer and former County Commissioner Dennis Harris said his and other farms south of U.S. 380 were severely damaged.

“Water is covering my 150 acres and there’s only one way for an outlet,” Harris said at Monday’s meeting. “The water on my farm will probably stay there for a week and there’s not much we can do to get it off. It’s been 30 years since it happened like this before.”

He said he and other farmers will be working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service for support and help.

“Right now, I’m estimating it’s going to cost me between a half million to a million dollars before it’s over with, because all that 150 acres will be ruined. We’ve got trash. We’ve got telephone poles, cross ties,” Harris said. “And I have a 10-foot stock tank in my field and I don’t know where it came from, it’s not mine.”

Trucks haul dirt through San Antonio, which is recovering from recent flooding. Socorro County Manager Delilah Walsh said the county would be available to assist wherever possible and that all pertinent information would be posted on the county’s website and Facebook page. (John Larson/El Defensor Chieftain)