A lot of New Mexico communities could be in trouble if the Pecos River does what the National Weather Service expects it to. With another night of rain, they predict it could reach flood stage by Friday morning.
The Pecos River has been rising steadily over the last couple days. By Thursday night, it’s expected to reach 12.8 feet. Flood stage is 13 feet.
The swelling river is a result of days of rain, and the National Weather Service estimates parts of Carlsbad could see another quarter to half-inch by this weekend.
It doesn’t sound like a lot, but most of that ends up in one place: the Pecos River.
Residents have seen what happens when that river surges over its banks. Not only is there flooding in low lying areas, that water can reach the bridges that straddle the river forcing a shutdown, including Highway 285 connecting north and south Carlsbad.
For now, emergency officials are planning for the worst, but hoping for the best. They’re continuing to monitor the flow meters, and are ready if the threat increases.
“At that point, the Carlsbad Fire Department would activate additional resources for SWIFT water. We’ll bring in our SWIFT water technicians. By bringing them in, we’ll prepare for any flooding, notify the public, barricade roads, whatever we need to do,” said Carlsbad Fire Chief Richard Lopez.
Lopez says Brantley Lake and Lake Avalon are still able to hold a large amount of water from the north. He says the main concern is overflowing in the city’s arroyos and Dark Canyon, which feed the river.
One man who lives near the river says he’s cautiously optimistic.
“I just try to walk down there every time it rains and check it out and I can kind of get a feel for it. Any time there’s disaster preparedness, one thing I believe in is human spirit. I just know that no matter what happens that we can handle it,” said Michael Hutchins.
The last time the fire department reached out for additional resources to deal with flooding was September 2014 and September 2015.
Given the current conditions, they don’t expect it to be that bad this time around.
Just a few years ago, the river nearly reached the 20 foot capacity. Before that, the only time it reached that high was in July 1960.