After the flood, clean up, get ready for next one

July 25, 2018

Nature has a way of making people sit up and pay heed.

As has happened over the past few months, with dry spells and hot days, and now, with bucket upon bucket of rain falling in just a few short hours, filling our arroyos and flooding our streets, Santa Fe is at attention.

The rains of Monday were unlike anything most of us have seen in our lifetime — at least that is how it felt. Turns out, that’s how it is. The rain Monday — some 3.57 inches over a few hours where it fell the hardest — was a “500- to 1,000-year rainfall,” according to the National Weather Service. So, yes, this was unlike anything we’d seen before. Meteorologist David Craft said, “This was an exceptionally heavy cloudburst.”

Was it ever. Not only did the bulk of the rain fall in just a few hours, the storm seemed to follow the runoff down through the arroyos as it sped on its way. The chances of that much rain in Santa Fe stand at about 0.2 percent annually. This downpour was unusual in both amount and duration.

However, since the monsoons are with us and more rain is expected, additional flooding is likely. The ground is saturated, so even smaller amounts of rain could be dangerous. “It won’t take much to give you a flash flood at this point,” Craft said.

With that in mind, Santa Fe residents and visitors need to take care as they go about their business the next few days. Especially, stop driving through high water. Keep out of arroyos. Those who sleep outdoors must stay away from low-lying areas — they will be flooded, and people can drown.

Rescue crews were kept busy on Monday evening plucking people from stranded vehicles. While the heroics are enjoyable to watch on a video, the consequences can be deadly for the people involved. Even after flooded streets cleared, the damage had to be picked up. City crews worked overnight to clear streets so people could get to work safely.

On Tuesday, crews from the city were busy once more, removing debris from streets and along the arroyos. From the top on down, workers were out and about, with crews from parks, streets and drainage, Keep Santa Fe Beautiful and other departments working. They cleaned mud from streets, picked up tree limbs and otherwise attempted to put the town back in shape.

With assistance from the Red Cross, a shelter was set up at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center. It went unused but was available. The Emergency Operations Center managed the moving pieces, responding quickly as needed.

Now, we wait, wondering if the needed and much-prayed for rain will overflow our streets and ditches again. Take time to clean the walks, pick up debris and tie down what might float away — trash cans, recycling bins and the like all were seen floating down the rushes of brown water.

It is entirely possible that more floods could occur. Be prepared and be wary of fast-moving water.

To keep up during an emergency, follow @SantaFeOEM, @SantaFeGov, and @MayorWebber on Facebook and Twitter. Our Twitter feed, @thenewmexican, will be posting as well.

While the city helps residents clean up, it will have its own work to do. At La Farge Branch Library, damage to 1,500 children’s books occurred, about a $37,000 loss.

Donations to Friends of the Santa Fe Public Library will help replace the books. The library is closed until further notice.

Swimmers showed up Tuesday morning at the Chavez Center only to find that the pool was out of commission because of the rains. The rest of the facility was open.

Other properties affected by the storm included Fort Marcy Recreation Center, City Hall and the Salvador Perez Recreation Center.

Residents can call 505-955-6949 to report damage to public infrastructure or for general information.

On Thursday, Environmental Services will pick up items damaged by water in homes in flood zones. Call 505-955-6949 to be included in the special collection; place items on your curb or near the front of your property.

Then, batten down the hatches — rain is in the forecast. Hallelujah.