Heavy rains saturate Northern New Mexico, increase flood risk

Reader Victoria Duran took this picture from the Interstate 25 Frontage Road near N.M. 599 on Sunday afternoon. Courtesy Victoria Duran

Moisture-laden storms unloaded Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, setting some new records in northeastern New Mexico while delivering a welcome reprieve from the heat in Santa Fe.

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque issued a flash flood watch through 3 a.m. Tuesday, especially for areas burned by wildfires in the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo mountains. Forecasters said the rain is likely to continue pouring on parts of New Mexico throughout the week.

Heavy rains Sunday and Monday caused historic flows at a couple of stream gauges in the Canadian River and dumped a record 4.91 inches in Harding County’s Mosquero village in a 24-hour period. The Raton airport reported 3.99 inches by Monday morning. Santa Fe weather stations and observers reported between half an inch and 2 inches of rain across the city.

Still, only the town of Gladstone in northeastern New Mexico had reported flash flooding by 4:30 p.m. Monday.

The threat of flooding from thunderstorms over the Diego, Jaroso and Tres Lagunas burn scars in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and areas affected by the Las Conchas and Thompson Ridge fires in the Jemez Mountains, is listed as high from Monday through Thursday. A high-risk rating means there is more than a 60 percent chance of flooding.

The Assayii Lake, Little Bear and Whitewater Baldy burn scars in other parts of the state are also listed as high-risk areas through Tuesday.

A rainstorm pounded much of the central and northeastern part of the state Sunday afternoon. The Santa Fe Municipal Airport was inundated with 1.14 inches of rain between Sunday evening and early Monday morning. A weather observation site south of the city in Seton Village received half an inch of moisture over the same time period.

The rain has saturated soils and with more slow moving thunderstorms expected through Monday evening, there is an increased risk of flash floods.

Monday afternoon, the Canadian River at the Taylor Springs gauge dwarfed its previous record water flow discharge rate for June 28 of 782 cubic feet per second set in 1958. The river at 7 p.m. Monday had risen to more than 8.5 feet deep and was roaring at 3,030 cubic feet per second, according to data tracked by the U.S. Geological Survey. The long term average, by comparison, is 92 cubic feet per second.

The river set another record at the Sanchez gauge, flowing at 2,960 cubic feet per second Monday afternoon, nearly twice its last record flow set in 1982, according to the USGS streamflow gauge information. The average flow is 197 cubic feet per second.

Contact Staci Matlock at 986-3055 or smatlock@sfnewmexican.com. Follow her on Twitter @stacimatlock.

This story has been amended to reflect the following correction:

Correction, July 31, 2014:

A story on Page A-1 of the July 29, 2014, edition should have said that the Canadian River at the Taylor Springs gauge on Monday dwarfed its previous water flow record for the day of June 28, set in 1958. That discharge rate was 782 cubic feet per second. The river flowed Monday at 3,030 cfs. However, the highest flow ever recorded by the gauge was in June 1965, when the river peaked at 162,000 cfs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.