Santa Fe works to clear its drainage systems

July 28, 2018 GMT

City workers kept up an “aggressive push” Thursday to assess residential flood damage after the massive Monday night monsoon and to prepare residents and infrastructure for more potential rain.

With thunderstorms looming in the forecast for Thursday night, city crews were “working to restore our drainage and surface water systems so we’re ready for the next storm,” according to a news release. The city’s response team was “bringing in outside resources” to assist in clearing culverts and other infrastructure.

City Public Works Director Regina Wheeler said those included personnel from the city of Albuquerque, Los Alamos County and some private contractors.


Wheeler said city crews since Tuesday had prioritized clearing blockages at culverts and drains that had led to private property damage and posed public safety risks.

“We did not get all the way through all of them,” Wheeler said. “We still have work to do. Definitely, if there’s a big dose [of rain], there’ll be some places that see flooding again. And so we hope we’ve addressed the areas that would have been impacted the worst. We hope it’s minor, maybe inconvenience rather than damage. But we can’t say for sure. We’ve been addressing areas that seem to be the most susceptible.”

City inspectors have so far performed damage assessments for half of the 214 requests for residential examinations, according to the release. Of 107 homes assessed, the city has “classified 6 as likely beyond repair, 33 have major damage, and 59 have some lower levels of damage,” the release stated.

In a Facebook post, Mayor Alan Webber encouraged flood-afflicted residents in need of “immediate financial support” to contact the regional disaster services line of the American Red Cross at 800-842-7349.

City fire officials would make more sandbags available for residents at the Siler Road fire station Friday, according to the city release.

Santa Fe residents can call 505-955-6949 to report flood damage, schedule a free collection of flood-damaged debris or be connected to other relief resources. Debris pickups began Thursday.

Webber issued an emergency proclamation Wednesday night, and city officials were in the process of coordinating with the state to secure cleanup resources, a city spokesman said, as well as requesting a Federal Emergency Management Agency team to help with neighborhood damage assessments.

Storms were brewing north and northwest of Santa Fe on Thursday afternoon, and rain began to fall before 6 p.m. Forecasts showed a 60 percent chance of rain, with a quarter-inch of new precipitation possible.


The Monday night storm dumped more than 3.5 inches of rain on parts of the city.

Meteorologist Andy Church of the National Weather Service in Albuquerque said the precipitation levels of a thunderstorm were difficult to predict, however.

“If the core of a thunderstorm goes right over, that could be upwards of three-quarters of an inch,” he said. “Or you could get missed altogether. It’s conduction. Trying to nail down the exact amounts is not an easy task.”

The “steering flow,” or upper-atmosphere winds that direct storms, appeared to be faster Thursday than on Monday night, he added.

Which means the storms could pass through quicker.

“That helps with limiting the rainfall,” Church said.

Rain was also likely Friday night.

“It’s late July in New Mexico,” Church said. “That’s probably what you’re going to be seeing.”