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A strong start to the monsoon season has brought a collective sigh of relief to drought-stricken New Mexico.
The promise of more rainfall this week is welcome news for crews fighting the two largest fires in state history.
Still, communities in or near the new burn scars are preparing for floods.
The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire in northern New Mexico is more than 341,000 acres and is 72% contained as of Monday.
Andy Gorelow, a National Weather Service meteorologist working on the fire, said that “slow and steady” rainfall over the weekend helped prevent major fire growth.
Areas on the fire’s western perimeter saw upward of an inch of rain, and the eastern region received about 0.5 inches.
Tuesday could bring heavy rain and thunderstorm activity.
“We are definitely in the monsoon pattern and it’s going to be here for a little while,” Gorelow said.
Las Vegas, New Mexico, has a 90% chance of rain on Tuesday.
Operations section chief Jayson Coil said that crews are bracing for floods across the fire area this week.
“We don’t know where, and we don’t know how much, and we don’t know how much debris is going to come down with that, but we’re anticipating that flooding,” he said. “It’s not if, it’s when.”
The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch on Tuesday for most of the central and northeast parts of the state.
The Black Fire in southwest New Mexico on the Gila National Forest is more than 325,000 acres and is 68% contained.
Operations section chief Lathe Evans said the rain has slowed down fire activity.
Crews in some areas have transitioned into road repair and clearing debris.
“We’re getting so much done,” Evans said. “Everything is cooling off.”
In Albuquerque, Friday’s storm marked the first measurable precipitation at the Sunport in 78 days.
Albuquerque has a 90% chance of rain Tuesday, with temperatures expected in the mid-70s.
Some storms on Tuesday night could produce heavy rainfall in the metro area.