SANDOVAL COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – Rushing waters continue to threaten homes and villages along the Jemez River. The quickly melting snowpack keeps feeding the river, sending it dangerously close to its capacity. The fear of flooding is growing in surrounding communities.
Since Wednesday, the Jemez River has flooded campgrounds along Highway 4 and is creating marshlands out of what was once desert and local residents’ fields.
“You can see all where it went. You can see how far it went. We tried to stop it because we didn’t want it to go in the trailer and have it sink. It flooded my neighbor’s field over there, and all this flooded out. We had a backhoe come in. One of my neighbors came here with a backhoe. He put dirt down here to stop the water from going back,” said John Piro, a resident of San Ysidro.
Piro said the water was so high Wednesday that it reached the highway, and in some cases, was as high as truck doors.
“It’s never been this bad. This is the first time I’ve seen that. I’ve been here all my life. This is the first time I’ve seen it this bad. I’ve never seen it hit the highway like that,” Piro explained, “I mean we went through it with our trucks, and our trucks came in above water to our doors and everything.”
Sandoval County Manager Wayne Johnson said the area is seeing a sheet flood from the Jemez River. It means the water is rushing so fast with so much volume that it’s jumping the banks and saturating everything in its path.
The gauge near Jemez Springs showed the river is about seven and a half feet with about six times as much water flowing through it as a week ago. Officials said the flood stage for this river is nine feet.
The county manager said they have several major issues right now. They’re facing imminent flooding in San Ysidro and potential flooding in Jemez Springs and monitoring how the bridges along the river are withstanding the impact. They want to make sure the wastewater treatment plant doesn’t overflow and pollute the river.
“We have water coming up into the sewer system here in the village, and it’s overwhelming the pumps down at the sewage plant, and that threatens to overtop and dump effluent into the river,” Johnson said, “The EPA is on their way up to evaluate the river water. We are not recommending that people go recreate in the river water, particularly south of the village.”
Johnsons emphasizes that drinking water is fine, but residents are advised to use their sewer systems as minimally as possible as they try to keep the system working.
“They’re burning the pumps out trying to stop it from overtopping,” Johnson explained.
A state of emergency was called for this area by the county commission Wednesday.
Officials stated sandbags are available at the fire stations in Jemez Springs and San Ysidro for people looking to protect their property.