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Mascot warns of flood danger

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new, bright blue, furry and life-sized critter will be teaching New Mexico kids about the dangers of flash flooding in arroyos and ditches.

The yet-to-be-named mascot was created as part of the Ditch and Water Safety Task Force’s Ditch the Ditches campaign and will be visiting elementary schools across the state throughout the school year.

“Our target market is children,” said Joanie Griffin, coordinator for the Ditch and Water Safety Task Force. “We really look at elementary kids who relate to mascots and characters that help send a positive message. For years, it was La Llorona, a witch. We did a focus group with elementary kids last year, and they came up with the critters.”

Awareness is important especially during the monsoon season, according to Kerry Jones, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Albuquerque.

“To put it in a football analogy, we’re moving into the third quarter now in terms of the season,” Jones said. “We have the seventh-wettest July on record and we still have several more weeks to go in our monsoon season. So remember that rain can fall many miles away and still create floods in our arroyos.”

Despite the unusually wet season, there have not been any drownings in the arroyos or ditches this year, according to the Albuquerque Fire Department. Before the task force was revamped 20 years ago, the Albuquerque area averaged five drownings per year. Now, it averages one incident every five years, Griffin said.

The ditch critter will try to reach 75 elementary schools this year, from Cochiti Pueblo in the north to Socorro in the south, Griffin said.

As for its name, the public can enter the Name the Critter contest at until Sept. 7. The winner will receive a $200 gift card.