A summer downpour arrived Thursday afternoon in Santa Fe and across New Mexico, a welcome reprieve after months of scorching temperatures and dangerously dry conditions.
But the fierce storm also brought flooding, particularly in forested areas recently charred by wildfire, such as an area near Cimarron that burned in late May and early June. New Mexico State Police issued an alert Thursday evening that a stretch of U.S. 64 from Eagle Nest to Cimarron had been closed due to a mudslide.
The threat of flash floods prompted a warning earlier Thursday from the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.
The heavy rains are likely to continue into the weekend, according to the weather service, which forecast a “favorable” monsoon pattern for New Mexico through the middle of next week.
The weather service called Thursday’s storm system in Northern and Western New Mexico the “most noticeable increase” in shower and thunderstorm coverage this summer in the state.
“It’s probably a pretty good start for the monsoons,” said Troy Marshall, a meteorological technician with the weather service.
The rain represents a desperately needed dose of precipitation in a state that has experienced extreme and exceptional drought through the early part of the summer following a winter that left little snowpack in the mountains and barely a trickle of spring runoff.
The federal drought map released Thursday shows every square mile of New Mexico is dealing with some form of drought, and neighboring states across the Southwest are faring just as poorly.
Water levels at Elephant Butte Reservoir, New Mexico’s largest reservoir, have been dropping, and farmers and water managers have been anxiously awaiting the start of summer rains.
Upstream, the riverbed of the Rio Grande north of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge has been reduced to a dry wash.
But the much-needed rainstorms also bring a potential for dangerous flash floods.
City emergency responders received reports of severe flooding early Thursday evening at the San Ysidro Crossing of the Santa Fe River, an area that commonly sees flooding following monsoon rains.
Northeastern Santa Fe County was one area flagged with a flash flood warning Thursday. That region could experience up to 1.5 inches of rain by Sunday and was forecast for some of the heaviest rainfall in the state over the next week.
Other areas likely to experience flooding, the National Weather Service said, were La Cienega, the Hyde Memorial State Park and Tesuque. The weather service reported a high to extreme flash flood potential in areas with wildfire burn scars.
“As little as one-quarter to one-half inch of rainfall in a short period of time can result in excessive runoff, flash flooding, and debris flows over severely burned land,” the weather service reported in a special briefing.
The Santa Fe area was forecast for up to 1 inch of rainfall by Sunday.
The city can expect a 50 percent chance of rain Friday, the weather service said, with some chance for isolated showers in the morning and a greater likelihood of thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Saturday will see a similar forecast, with a 60 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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