CHILI, N.M. (KRQE) - Residents along the Rio Chama northwest of Española got their first look at what's left of their homes Thursday after a flash flood rushed through the day before.
For many it's not looking good.
The water rolled down from above the river valley around midday Wednesday as the Chama spilled over its banks covering some properties to a depth of 5 feet.
But now that the flooding is over, the cleanup has begun.
"Just Day 1 of getting this started," Rio Arriba County sheriff's Lt. Randy Sanches told KRQE News 13.
Sanches was on the job Wednesday when he learned he was having an emergency of his own.
"When I got here the water was up to the gate that we're standing in," Sanches said.
Rushing flood waters moved this trailer here... From all the way here.
County officials say after heavy rain yesterday afternoon... The nearby Rio Chama met with the Rio Ojo Caliente and water flooded full speed over U.S. Highway 84/285 and into about six homes.
About four feet covered the area at its peak, surprising even longtime residents like Manuel vigil, who says he's never seen it flood like that.
"This one was just amazing," he said. "Unbelievable."
He rents this home out to another family. Leftover marks show just how high the water climbed.
"I think this house is totally lost," vigil said. "It's completely ruined."
For now it's residents helping residents as the county helps with insurance claims and explores federal assistance.
"We're seeing what to do to assist people, get their information for insurance and what not, and send it to Homeland Security and see if there will be any assistance," said county Emergency Preparedness Director Mateo DeVargas.
Meanwhile residents are helping residents.
Sanches says he does have flood insurance to cover his home, but that won't help with the cars now stuck in mud under a fallen tree or the '57 Chevy he'd been restoring that was submerged under water.
"From talking to neighbors and emergency management, nobody was injured, thank God," he said. "Nobody was killed."
Sanches is estimating the initial cleanup will take about a week, but it'll be months before his house is livable again.
Most people who spoke with KRQE News 13 Thursday said have family nearby to stay with.
Rio Arriba County officials say they don't have an estimated cost of the damage yet.
Earlier coverage today:
Residents along the Rio Chama northwest of Española began returning home Thursday to the damage left when storm runoff surged into the river and flooded the valley to depths up to 5 feet.
The Rio Chama spilled over its banks early Wednesday afternoon sending water rushing toward homes in the valley about 10 miles from Española.
The water began rising slowly, but within a few hours there was major flooding and a large response by emergency agencies.
Sky News 13 video showed the water washing over state and county roads damaging some that escaped earlier storms unscathed.
Rio Arriba County officials say six homes in chili were flooded by about 5 feet of water.
A shelter was set up last for displaced residents but has closed as those people are returning home to find out how their houses fared.
"It is devastating to know that all of your belongings and your family stuff in these residences might be underwater, and you don't know the condition of them or even your animals for that matter," Rio Arriba County Emergency Preparedness Director Mateo DeVargas told KRQE News 13.
Officials say county crews were out late into the night and again Thursday morning working to return roads to normal.
The county is now providing sandbags to residents in preparation for any other storms that might pass through. Those are available at the Rio Chama Chevron station at the US 84/US 285 junction.
KRQE News 13 has a crew in the flood zone and will have much on damage and current conditions in a live report on KRQE News 13 at 4 p.m.
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