ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Shelters are open in three counties hit by flash flooding, and the National Guard has been called out to aid in evacuating a mobile home park near Artesia where deep water stranded as many as 60 residents.
What the National Weather Service is calling a "historic September rain burst" is living up to its billing with roads washed out around the state, the Pecos River at a 53-year high and the rain still falling.
Late Thursday morning rescuers were using a helicopter to pluck as many as 60 residents from the flooded mobile home park in Lakewood about 15 miles south of Artesia.
KRQE News 13 reported Emily Younger described the scene at Lakewood Thursday morning as "extremely chaotic" with the helicopter lifting two to three people at a time and taking them to a bus equipped for shelter. No injuries have been reported, she added.
As of 3 p.m. about half of the residents had been moved to safety without incident.
The governor's office later announced National Guard personnel, trucks and a helicopter were mobilizing at the request of the Eddy County Sheriff's Office to aid in the rescue.
Three Guard helicopters--two Lakotas from Las Cruces and a Blackhawk from Santa Fe--arrived a Lakewood at midafternoon to help assess the situation and aid in evacuations. The Guard also reported there are fears high water may breech the Kaiser Channel on the Pecos above above Brantley Dam spreading floodwater into an old lakebed threatening live and property.
A Southwestern Railroad freight train also is stranded in the area with rescuers initially saying a boat en route to retrieve the two-person crew. It was later reported the rescuers were having trouble getting to the train, which is perched on a berm above the water.
Carlsbad under flood threat:
Voluntary evacuations were requested by officials in Carlsbad where the combination of high water in the Pecos River and flash flooding in tributaries running through and near Carlsbad is threatening residents.
Early Thursday afternoon the weather service issued a flood warning through Friday afternoon for Dark Canyon Draw, which flows through Carlsbad. Water was flowing at 4.5 feet but had risen beyond the 15-foot flood stage to 17.9 feet by late afternoon.
The flood flow will near to top of the banks under the U.S. Highway 285 bridge, and residents living near the Canal Street Bridge in Carlsbad are being warned to be on alert for rising water overflowing the banks.
The weather service forecast minor to moderate flooding with the Dark Canyon Draw remaining at or above flood stage until midnight Friday night.
By midafternoon Carlsbad officials shut down the US 285 bridge as a precaution essentially cutting Carlsbad in half.
The American Red Cross opened a shelter in Carlsbad at Leyva Middle School and was preparing for evacuees from as many as 200 homes there, a Red Cross spokesperson said. Some of the people rescued in Lakewood also were headed there on buses provided by Eddy County.
Water levels have been rising all along the Pecos River with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation saying water levels had double and in some cases tripled in reservoirs. An increased outflow from Avalon Dam at 5,750 cubic feet a second reached Carlsbad just downstream about 9:30 a.m., and the outflow from the dam later rose to 6,000 cfs.
While the channel through Carlsbad is designed to handle 20,000 cfs, the BOR said boating and recreation equipment in the river could be at risk. With the expected flooding from Dark Canyon feeding into the Pecos at Carlsbad, the BOR later extended its warning to the Texas border and warned people to stay away from the river and Avalon Dam.
At last report the combined flow of the Pecos and Dark Canyon in south Carlsbad had reached 13,000 cfs.
The weather service just before 3 p.m. Thursday issued a flood alert for the Pecos River from Acme south of Roswell to points downstream. The river, which had been running about 4 feet deep before the storms hit, is now at 13 feet, its flood stage, and expected to rise to 13.1 feet by evening, its highest stage in more than 53 years.
The American Red Cross chapters also opened shelters in Roswell in the ENMU-R campus gym and in the community center in the Doña Ana County community of Vado where flooding has forced residents from their homes.
Highways damaged, closed:
The New Mexico Department of Transportation reports numerous road closures around the state as well as heavy rains impeded travel from Interstate 25 in central and southern counties east to the Texas border (click here for interactive map). In Otero County a four-mile section of U.S. Highway 82 closed between High Rolls and Alamogordo by fallen rocks as a vehicle crash has reopened, NMDOT reported.
More than 50 miles of State Road 137 northeast of Carlsbad are closed by flooding, which resident Mike Lanfor told KRQE News 13 had blocked residents' exit to U.S. Highway 285 since Wednesday night.
In Sierra County raging water in a normally dry canyon ate into State Road 51 between Elephant Butte Lake and Engle taking out a stretch of guardrail reducing the highway to one lane.
In Colorado three people have died from flash flooding in the mountains and foothills above Denver.
Shortly before noon the weather service issued a flood advisory for metro Albuquerque where moderate to heavy rain will persist until at least 5 p.m. Street flood and high flows in flood channels and other drainages are forecast.
The Associate Press quotes meteorologist Kerry Jones of the weather service forecast office in Albuquerque as saying some parts of the state could see 6-10 inches of rain through the weekend.
The city of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department announced has canceled all outdoor activities scheduled for Thursday evening.
The flood advisory includes parts of Torrance, Valencia and Socorro counties for moderate to heavy rains continuing into early evening. Similar conditions--rain rates up to 1 inch an hour--also are forecast for the Jemez Mountains and the burn scar from the Las Conchas Fire.
New Mexico Rail Runner Express commuter trains are running 10-15 minutes late due to the weather, according to its website.
Trouble in Indian Country:
On the Navajo Nation the Rock Point Chapter 50 miles north of Chinle, Ariz., has declared an emergency from severe flooding and damaged roads, according to a statement from the Navajo Nation Council. About 700 people live in the community, and many are stranded an unable to return to their homes, Council Delegate Nelson BeGaye said.
The chapter house has opened as a shelter but is low on supplies, according to the statement, which added volunteers have been filling and placing sandbags.
Earlier Thursday Roswell residents were cleaning up from the previous day's flooding that trapped a number of drivers in the mud and muck of Berrendo Creek on the northwest side of the city.
"I honestly don't know what would possess somebody to drive when you can see roads blocked and flooded," Amber Scitern told KRQE News 13 as she surveyed the mess. "What possessed you to drive into it? It's crazy."
In Santa Rosa about 5 inches of rain has fallen since Wednesday pushing the Pecos River to the top of its banks and the bottom of some bridges.
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