New Mexico Floods: Record Rainfall Prompts Rescues

September 12, 2013 Updated: September 12, 2013

Floods across New Mexico forced evacuations, namely along the Pecos River.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — National Guard troops and other first responders were evacuating dozens of campers stranded by floodwaters along the Pecos River as New Mexico was drenched Thursday by another round of record rainfall.

While the welcomed moisture is helping the state out of an unprecedented drought, the runoff left the RV park near Brantley Lake surrounded. Crews were using boats and helicopters to bring people to dry land, where they were checked by medical personnel and bussed to a shelter in Carlsbad.

Empty reservoirs along the Pecos River were filling up with muddy water Thursday afternoon, as northern New Mexico braced for its share of the moisture. Officials said areas with recent wildfire burn scars and mountain slopes — and places downstream from those areas — would be particularly vulnerable to mudslides and flooding.

“The rainfall totals from when this event began are going to be record breaking, they already have been,” said Kerry Jones, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Albuquerque.

Jones said it’s likely some areas could see 6 to 10 inches of rain by the weekend. In one spot in the Guadalupe Mountains of southern New Mexico, more than 11 inches fell in a 24-hour period, which forecasters described as “unbelievable.”

The rain-soaked plains of eastern New Mexico were shedding runoff into arroyos that were draining into the Pecos River. At Avalon Dam just north of Carlsbad, federal water managers reported flows of 5,000 cubic feet per second. There’s typically no to little flow through the area at this time of year.

Authorities issued a plea for people to stay away from the river and the dam.

Another concern was the floodwaters flowing down the river combining with runoff coursing through a large canyon near the southern edge of Carlsbad.

“We’re watching everything very closely,” said Mary Perea Carlson, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation.

Volunteers with the American Red Cross were manning shelters in Chaves and Dona Ana counties to help motorists and residents affected by flood waters.

Officials at Carlsbad Caverns National Park closed the park Thursday and asked all employees and visitors to leave due to the potential for flooding along the park’s main road. They planned to reopen the park Friday morning.

Near Alamogordo, two rain-caused rock slides on both sides of a tunnel on U.S. 82 closed the highway briefly Wednesday.