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Fighting flooding with mops and towels

July 25, 2018 GMT

What began as the soothing patter of rain turned into what sounded like the dreadful echoes of battle drums as Annika Kelso-Lemon and her partner Heidi Kelso-Lemon fought a growing tide of water and mud flooding their home.

The accompanying wind during Monday evening’s storm made trees and traffic lights lurch. The sky glowed eerily as clouds blocked the sunset and Santa Fe was enveloped in gray. People scurried for cover almost as quickly as the downpour hid them from view. The city advised everyone to stay home if possible.

But home wasn’t safe for the Kelso-Lemons on La Cieneguita, near Camino Carlos Rey North.

Around 7:30 p.m, stormwater washed into their home, seeping over carpets and surrounding furniture. Hail competed with thunder to create a cacophonous reminder of the storm’s might.

They grabbed anything that would soak up the water, finding themselves overwhelmed with wet towels as four inches of water poured into their home.

Around midnight, with most of the battle won with help from friends and family, the women left puddled footprints in their carpeted bedroom as they fell into bed exhausted and concerned for the day ahead.

“I’m numb,” Annika Kelso-Lemon said Tuesday. “It’s too big, I can’t feel it. I had moments of despair, but I had to keep doing what I’m doing.”

Across from the Kelso-Lemon residence, the flooded playground in Dos Hernandez Rodriguez Park along La Cieneguita was symbolic of what the homeowners endured, as well as a reminder of what could happen with more rain in the forecast this week.

While the city experienced flash flooding and damage to infrastructure, homeowners on La Cieneguita shared in the disaster as homes and yards were soaked.

“Everybody’s got it bad, but everyone’s got it bad in a different way,” Heidi Kelso-Lemon said.

Next door, Gerry Holland and his girlfriend, Dyana Todd, also battled water that cascaded from the street down their sloped driveway and into their house.

“I couldn’t open the front door,” Holland said.

While La Cieneguita often gets flooding, Holland said, it had never breached the curb until Monday.

“Of course we don’t have flood insurance,” Holland said. “Who has flood insurance in Santa Fe?”

A retaining wall behind Holland’s house was damaged, Todd said, but she’s glad Holland and Todd and their two dogs were safe.

“Well, you can’t be mad at anybody, right?” Todd said. “It’s Mother Nature.”

Heidi Kelso-Lemon sees all the flooding on her street as a sign the city hasn’t done enough.

“The drainage is terrible,” Heidi Kelso-Lemon said. “If the Cerrillos Road drainage wasn’t a problem, this wouldn’t happen.”

A few houses down La Cieneguita from the Kelso-Lemons, John Pacheco worked on his front yard in the Tuesday heat. An inflatable kiddie pool overflowed with murky water and broken branches. Water was still pooled inside his open garage. Pacheco said he barely slept, and Tuesday he and his wife stayed home from work to clean and prepare for future storms.

“I wasn’t prepared because it hit fast,” Pacheco said. “I’ll be prepared for tonight.”

He and his wife have lived on La Cieneguita for 20 years, and he said the street always had drainage issues, but water never flooded into their homes before.

“We’ve had problems with this road since they built this subdivision,” he said. “Let’s hope [the city] will fix something.”

On the corner past Pacheco’s home, Gladys Trujillo’s yard looked like the aftermath of a disaster. She came home from Pojoaque with her brother, John Trujillo, and her two grandchildren around 9 p.m. Monday to find a 5-foot retaining wall bordering her house flattened, bricks swept away, her neighbor’s shed pushed into her yard and pieces of her wooden fence draped with tires.

“We never thought that would happen here in Santa Fe,” Gladys Trujillo said. “It looks like a tornado hit.”

While she said it had rained in Pojoaque, that didn’t suggest anything like what she found upon returning home. Neighbors came to her aid, and she said she was grateful it wasn’t worse.

John Trujillo, who lives off Calle Caballero and didn’t get any flooding, said the family was unsure how to start on repairs and was focusing on preparing for more rain.

“At this stage of the game, you just have to stay home with mops and towels and wish for the best,” John Trujillo said. “Who prepares for this in New Mexico? Nobody.”

While the event took them by surprise, John Trujillo said the support from neighbors was heartening.

“This is what unites a city, a community,” John Trujillo said. “You have to come together in the event of a disaster.”