A Reminder Of What Could Happen.
Remnants Of Hurricane Dolly July 27, 2008.
At the end of July, 2008 Hurricane Dolly moved inland near Brownsville, Texas as a Category 1 Hurricane. Her remnant moisture then moved northwestward up the Rio Grande Valley and into southern New Mexico. During the night of Saturday July 26th into the following day, excessive rainfall fell over the Sacramento Mountains, and the Sierra Blanca Wilderness drainage area west of Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Excerpts From My Blog July 27, 2008-
"As a result, some of the worst flooding in 100 years occured in Ruidoso, New Mexico late Saturday night into Sunday. The Rio Ruidoso River rose to over 11 feet in Ruidoso, and the Mescalero Lake at the Inn of the Mountain Of Gods rose to within a foot of the spillway. Bonito Lake was overflowing it's spillway.
Many roads in the Ruidoso area were closed including US 70 Saturday and Sunday. Twelve bridges were washed out, with some estimates of 20-25 bridges having gone under water. Some 350-500 homes have been flooded and damaged, at least 25 people have been rescued out of the flood waters. Nearly 900 people stranded by the flood waters had been rescued in and around the Ruidoso area. One 20 year old man who slipped in the flood waters in the upper canyon and drowned was found Monday morning.
200 residents remained stranded in the upper canyon area in west Ruidoso as of Monday due to the bridges and roads being washed out.
US 70 was reopened but 60% of the secondary roads in and around Ruidoso remained closed Monday. Early estimates put the damages in Ruidoso alone at 15-20 million dollars."
Two Day Rainfall Totals From Ruidoso Include-
(July 27- 28, 2008).
2.0 N Ruidoso Spotter 7.00"
1.8 SW Ruidoso 6.76"
Downtown Ruidoso Spotter 6.60"
4.0 N Ruidoso Public 6.30"
1.0 W Ruidoso Fire Dept 4.67"
Capitan Climate 3.93"
24 HR & (2 Day) Storm Total Rainfall Amounts-
(As Of 11 A.M. MDT Sunday Morning).
Smokey Bear Raws Ruidoso 5.54” (6.76”)Sierra Blanca Pk Snotel 5.50” (7.30”)
3.9 NNW Ruidoso 3.43" (4.28") 7 AM
Sierra Blanca Regional Arpt 2.39” (2.94”)
0.7 N Sunspot 6.58" (6.99") 7 AM
Cosmic Raws Sunspot 6.30”
5.8 ENE La Luz 4.60" (4.70") 7 AM
5.8 WSW Cloudcroft4.56" (4.56") 7 AM
2.1 SSE Alamogordo 4.44" (4.44") 7 AM
1.0 E Tularosa 4.25" (4.53") 7 AM
0.3 SSW Tularosa 3.94" (4.18") 7 AM
16 ESE Cloudcroft 3.73" (4.49") 7 AM
8.5 NE Alamogordo 3.71" (3.92") 7 AM
Mescal Raws Near Mescalero 3.74" (4.48")
Mayhill Raws 3.58” (5.20”) (July 14.69”)
4.0 E Cloudcroft 3.50" (4.09")7 AM
Ponderosa Pines Golf Course 3.45” (3.46”)
1.5 NE Timberon 3.40" (4.35") 7 AM
5.4 W Cloudcroft 3.37" (3.59") 7 AM
11.8 E Cloudcroft 3.30" (4.44") 7 AM
2.3 NE Alamogordo 3.27” (3.43”) 7 AM
0.4 ESE Cloudcroft 3.08" (3.48") 7 AM
Cloudcroft Fire Stn 2.89” (2.94”)
Dark Ridge Observatory 3.88” (July 11.62”)
Dry Canyon N Wimsatt 2.71’ (2.71”)
High Roll CW5738 2.65” (2.65”)
Holloman AFB 2.17” (2.55”)
Its hard to believe but 11" - 15" of rain fell over the Sacramento Mountains during the month of July! Most of this was attributed to the remnants of former Hurricane Dolly. That's two-three times the normal average. Cloudcroft typically sees on average about 5.50" of rain in July and Ruidoso about 4.50".
The Cloudcroft Climate Coop Station recorded 13.33" for July. A CoCoRaHS Station 16 miles ESE of Cloudcroft recorded 15.82" of rain for July. The Mayhill Raws recorded 15.71" of rain for July. The Cosmic Raws at Sunspot recorded 13.58" for July while the Smokey Bear Raws in Ruidoso recorded 10.87" of rain. The Ruidoso Climate Coop Station recorded 10.57" of rain for July. The Capitan Climate Coop Station recorded 7.15" of rain for July.
Recent Fires Have Left Area Vulnerable To Flash Flooding.
A number of wild land and forest fires have burned down huge tracks of forest and grasslands across the Guadalupe, Sacramento, and Capitan Mountains, as well as across the southeastern plains of New Mexico since 2000. These fires have created numerous burn scar areas across the local area, some of which are quite large. Meanwhile, we continue to suffer from the effects of one of the worst droughts to ever impact the area.
If I had to come up with the perfect flash flood scenario for the area, it would include the above mentioned parameters, and then add to these a wide-spread heavy rain event. A nightmarish scenario would then be born out this combination.
Southeastern New Mexico, and the nearby Guadalupe, Sacramento, and Capitan Mountains are covered with normally dry arroyo's. There are literally hundreds of them. These arroyo's may go years without any flooding noted in them, sometimes 10-20 years. Hundreds of roads crisscross these arroyo's, most of them in rural areas. Some of these roads are paved, and have bridges, most do not. These roads are used for oilfield traffic, farming and ranching activities, as well as for public access to many favorite campsites, fishing holes, cabins, homes, and the few lakes and streams that dot the area.
Flash Flooding In Southeastern New Mexico.
Flash flooding is fairly common across our area of the state. In a normal year whenever you get 2" of rain per hour or more over a large enough area, there is usually going to be a flash flood. These events are more often than not highly localized. Many of them occur in rural areas and often go unnoticed by most of the local population. Occasionally, after several days of heavy rainfall, flash flooding will be widespread enough to affect some of our populated areas. On average somebody in southeastern New Mexico experiences a significant flash flood event about every ten years.
We are potentially facing a major flash flood event across the area this year. This is due to the ongoing drought, the numerous burn scars, the potential return of our annual summer monsoon, and possibly later this summer or fall, the advent of El Nino. The setup we have in place now is something that most of us have ever faced in our lifetimes. This is especially true across the mountainous areas that have suffered devastating forest fires since 2000.
I am 54 years old, and have lived in southeastern New Mexico of my life except for the short time I was in the US Navy. I well remember the flash flooding in Eddy County in the 1960's, the 1970's, and the 1980's. I was six years old in June 1964 when my family lost everything we owned but the shirts on our backs during the Artesia flash flood. That flood occurred when 10" of rain fell on the Eagle Draw Arroyo watershed west of Artesia, in just a couple hours of time. Now doubt some of you remember the flash flooding in Carlsbad in August of 1966. I also remember the flash floods of 1974, and during the 1980's. Other devastating flash flood events have occurred in prior years also.
But what we are facing now is unlike anything most of us have ever seen! Some of the worst flash flood events noted in southeastern New Mexico occurred in the 1950's through the 1970's. These were a results of droughts, forest fires, and their associated burn scar areas, which when heavy rains fell over these affected areas, significant flash flooding resulted. History repeats itself, only now the potential for devastating flash flooding across the area is unbelievably high!
My greatest fear is that a Hurricane or Tropical Storm will either move into the Gulf of Mexico, or approach the area from the southwest form the Baja Region. Then the remnants track northeastward or northwestward into southern and southeastern New Mexico. The potentially resultant excessive rainfall would produce wide-spread flash flooding across the area, the likes of which that most of us have never experienced or seen! The potential devastation from the flooding would be astronomical. The threat for the loss of life would also be very high also if the local populations affected situationual awareness was not up to par, and flash flood watches and warnings were either ignored or not heeded!
Ruidoso Utilities Director Randall Camp talked about this potential with KRQE News yesterday. Check out his the video portion of his interview. Its not just the Ruidoso area that may be impacted by heavy rainfall, and flash flooding this summer and fall, but all of southeastern New Mexico.
Most flash flood deaths occur at night when its harder to tell the depth of the water. Most flash flood deaths in New Mexico occur as a result of people in vehicles trying to drive across flooded roadways, arroyo's, and streams. You should never try and drive across a flooded arroyo, stream, or any other area that is flooded, especially at night! You also should never let your children play in, or close to, a flooded arroyo or stream. Remember..."Turn Around - Don't Drown."
Note- Even if we only get our normal annual summer monsoon rains this summer, or a wide-spread heavy rain event, such as the remnants of Dolly produced in July of 2008, there are still going to be some flash flood problems in the area. The flash flood threat thresholds across the Guadalupe, Sacramento, and Capitan Mountains, as well as the nearby surrounding areas of southeastern and southern New Mexico are incredibly high!
A normal heavy rainfall event of 1" - 2" per hour will now produce a much higher flash flood threat than normal, especially over, and near, the many burn scar areas that dot the landscape. There simply remains very little, to none of the vegetation that would normally be in place to hold back the heavy rains. Any heavy rain that falls in these areas is very quickly going to run off, and very quickly flood the nearby streams, normally dry arroyo's, and affected drainage areas.
Area residents are urged to stay extra vigilant this summer and fall, and please stay up to date with our current weather conditions, and forecasts, via your favorite media outlets, NOAA Weather Radio, or by visiting our local National Weather Service Office web sites listed below.
Here is a really cool app that you can use on your phones to received the very latest National Weather Service forecasts, watches, warnings, current conditions, radar, and satellite images anywhere in the US that you are interested in.
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