LAKEWOOD, N.M. (KRQE) - It took a helicopter to rescue Bob and Marilyn Railey from their Lakewood RV early Thursday because of the threat of additional flooding.
About 72 residents of the RV park between Artesia and Carlsbad found themselves trapped by rising water from the steady stream of water-rich storm washing over New Mexico for the third day.
Throughout the day Thursday, a CareFlight medical helicopter ferried residents out in twos and threes landing on a highway where the evacuees could be escorted to a waiting bus.
The Raileys were rousted early in the morning and told their lives were in immediate danger.
"What's going on is there's a fairly major flood in our RV park, and we are being evacuated by helicopter to some place we don't know," Bob Railey told KRQE News 13 from the comfort of the bus.
Eddy County emergency officials say water levels in area reservoirs have doubled in the last 24 hours, and water flow in the Pecos River is way up, too.
Rains in the higher country also are sending flash floods down tributaries into the Pecos Valley and the river floodplain and Lakewood.
"That area those people were vacated from and evacuated out of is an area that's subject to sheet flow," said Kenny Rayroux of the Eddy County Emergency Operations Center. "So that water gets to running across that plain out there, and then the access to get to them is inundated and unpassable by vehicle."
By 3 p.m., about half of the Lakewood residents had been helped to safety.
"The problem is the roads are all flooded and we can't get out," Lakewood resident Phil Sharp said. "Without (the helicopters) we wouldn't have had any way to get out, and we would have been at the mercy of whatever comes down that arroyo."
Bob Railey said he didn't see anyone panic, but once residents were told they had to evacuate, they didn't have time to grab many belongings.
Sharp said he was told to only bring medications and necessities, so that's what he brought with him.
Emergency officials said all 72 of the RV residents are safe at local shelters in Carlsbad and Artesia. Lakewood residents were being told it will be at least a couple of days before they're allowed back in.
In Carlsbad, flood danger rose from the Pecos River and Dark Canyon Draw, both of which flow through the city.
Cody Baker, a Carlsbad resident, said, "We usually get a little bit of flooding, but this is outrageous."
Officials say water flowing from the Dark Canyon arroyo reached the area this afternoon, sending water levels on the Pecos River higher than they have been in 53 years.
"It's disastrous is what it is," Baker said. "I don't know what to think really. It's mind-boggling."
Meanwhile, the flooding there stopped a freight train on its berm above the floodwaters. While the two-person crew is safe, rescuers were having a difficult time getting to them.
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