LAS CRUCES – While driving past White Sands Missile Range on her way home to Organ, Tamara King suddenly found her Mazda 3 swept away in a mudslide that buried U.S. 70 in several feet of mud on July 11.
King said she was on her way back from Lubbock with her dog and a friend. Rain fell the entire drive, but conditions became dangerous on U.S. 70 near San Augustin Pass.
She said she pulled over when she noticed debris, at which point mud sliding down the mountain took her car into the middle of the highway.
“My car got swooshed back into the right-hand side. And then it just went down the side of the road,” King said. “My car ended up four miles down road, about a football field off the highway.”
King said she and her friend tried to get out of the car through the sunroof, but it wouldn’t open enough – and then it didn’t close. They worried they were going to drown. All the while the car was still moving. After what felt like an “eternity” – King said it was likely only 20 minutes – the Mazda hit large rocks and nose-dived into the mud.
Water and mud splashed against the windows, making it difficult for the two to get their bearings. They were able to break the passenger-side window and King climbed out. But water was running all around her and she said she worried about getting swept away or dislodging the car.
Luckily, King soon saw firefighters responding to the mudslide who helped her, her dog and her friend back to the safety of the roadway.
A driver of a four-wheel-drive truck also happened to be in the area and gave the three of them a lift to King’s home in Organ. None of them was hurt.
“I’ve lived in New Mexico for 30 years, and I’ve never in my life seen a flash flood like that,” she said. “It was like a Wet ‘N’ Wild ride. It was crazy. My car was being jerked around; we were being turned all the way around. At one point, we were going backwards. And I just was praying that (the car) wouldn’t flip over.”
King said she went back to her car a day later to get some of her belongings and had to dig her way to the door. The car is unsalvageable, with hundreds of pounds of mud, now dirt, weighing it down.
Now, King said, she faces the task of removing the totaled car from WSMR property. She also doesn’t have full insurance coverage, so she is now without transportation.