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Heavy rain brings flooding, evacuations

SANTA FE, N.M. — SF drinking water reservoirs topped up

A week full of rain yielded mixed results for norteños Friday, with some flooding and road closures leading to voluntary evacuations, while at the same time easing growers’ drought pressures and raising the water level in a Santa Fe city reservoir.

Santa Clara Pueblo and Pecos Canyon had some voluntary evacuations, but no mandatory ones, as rivers rose with runoff and debris from burn scars up the mountains from them.

“The (Pecos) River has been flowing over its banks since early this morning,” Pecos village treasurer Art Varela said Friday. “It’s taken out a couple of bridges in the northwest part of the village.”


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But State Police Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said workers were able to keep the main road, N.M. 63, open through the canyon. “There are no major issues going on there, thankfully,” he said.

At Santa Clara Pueblo, people who live in the pueblo’s west side housing area were under a voluntary evacuation as waters in the creek running down from Santa Clara Canyon filled the channel, according to Pueblo Gov. J. Bruce Tafoya. He said about 12-14 homes were affected.

For residents who chose to leave, an evacuation center was set up in Española, he added.

With between 4.6 and 6 inches falling in the mountains draining into the canyon overnight Thursday, and another 6 inches expected, Tafoya said residents were sandbagging some areas around housing and tribal offices, and they dug ditches around the pueblo’s plaza area to drain some floodwaters.

Also, the Frijoles Canyon section of Bandelier National Monument was closed Friday because of flooding, according to spokeswoman Chris Judson.

It will also be closed today and possibly Sunday, she said. “We’ve got a lot of mud to clean up.”

Thursday night, the Frijoles Creek gauge hit 5 feet, then surged to 8 feet at mid-morning, she said.

Water reached an island in the visitor’s center parking lot, which has trees and picnic tables. “It was half-way up the legs of the picnic tables and trash cans,” Judson said.


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That area also had an attachment that goes over a pickup truck bed, used to store food away from the bears. “It floated away. And it was really heavy,” she said. “It just took off downstream.”

As far as she knows, Judson added, none of the buildings in the park were affected by the flooding. And the main archaeological sites are high enough to be unaffected, she said.

Both Santa Clara and Bandelier are affected by rapid water runoff from land scarred by fires in recent years. Flooding continues to carry debris from those sites, Judson said. During Thursday night’s flooding, “a log went by that was 8 feet long and about 6 inches in diameter,” she said.

Even acequias were flooding. Jake Arnold, spokesman for the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office, said he was in El Rito on Friday morning and saw workers dredging an irrigation ditch that had sent water flooding over the main road through town.

Los Alamos Commander Preston Ballew told The Associated Press that there was canyon flooding in burn scar areas from recent wildfires, with some road closures and sporadic residential flooding.

Road closures

Several road closures were reported by the New Mexico Department of Transportation, especially Friday morning, with many of them in the Los Alamos and Las Vegas, N.M., areas. Areas along N.M. 68 up through the Rio Grande Gorge were also closed at times Friday, with debris and boulders sliding down onto the highway from the surrounding slopes.

Heavy rains and flooding temporarily closed both Morphy Lake and Coyote Creek state parks in northern New Mexico, which will reopen when they are “deemed safe for visitors,” according to a news release from New Mexico State Parks.

But the rain also helped fill Santa Fe’s reservoirs, which help supply drinking water for the city. On Thursday, 49 million gallons flowed into McClure Reservoir, and even more than that was expected to be added by the end of Friday, said Alex Puglisi, who oversees water supply sources for the city.

Water in McClure was at 36.9 percent of capacity, more than it held at the same time this year in either of the past two years, he said. Water in the last couple of days has been running off the upper watershed at 165 to 248 cubic feet per second, compared to flows in the single digits before this week’s rain, he said.

“We’re just taking on more water now, and that’s a good thing,” he said, adding that the reservoir is also releasing about 2.8 million gallons to the Santa Fe River per day now.