Superintendent of Dexter Consolidated Schools Heather Garner said the threat of flood waters from the Pecos River reaching the rural southeastern New Mexico community’s elementary school forced the school district to cancel class Tuesday.
Garner said flood projections put the facility directly in the path of flood overflow as the school is near a flood draw channel just off New Mexico State Road 2.
Garner said the Dexter Consolidated Schools (DCS) would rely on daily weather reports as heavy rains continued to fall across southeast New Mexico increasing the amount of water in the Pecos River.
“We’ve been in contact with our volunteers through the Dexter Volunteer Fire Department as well as with our police chief and just following the maps that are being presented and just following the situation as best we can,” Garner said.
In a Facebook post Tuesday morning, Dexter Fire and Rescue Chief Justin Powell said emergency personnel anticipated flood waters would overtake a bridge east of Dexter.
“When this water gets to the bridge in Wichita (Road), it will no doubt run around both sides. Especially the east side and fill the curves with water. I also expect it to be running around the west side and through the Durand Farm and running back across Wichita to the south towards Shawnee Road,” he wrote.
Powell urged residents living near the river to be prepared to evacuate and be cautious of deep water near the bridge.
“That curve will be approximately 5 plus feet deep and (neither) I, nor anyone else, want to be fishing you out,” he wrote.
Garner said if class cancellations lasted the rest of the week, the school district was prepared for remote learning, a skill the district and its staff of teachers and administrators mastered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We did fine with online learning through COVID (-19) when we were shutdown and most of our staff still actively use Google Classroom. If students were still being sick it was just easy to keep it going to allow students to still engage in the class environment,” she said.
Flood warnings remain in place for Chaves, Eddy counties
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Albuquerque projected that the Pecos River would flood its banks near Lake Arthur, New Mexico.
Around 12:15 a.m. Tuesday, the flood stage in the Pecos River in that area was 8 feet. The river was expected to crest to more than 22 feet by Tuesday afternoon and then fall below flood stage sometime Tuesday night, per the NWS Albuquerque.
Flood stage along the river near Lake Arthur is 20 feet. A crest of 21.9 feet was recorded on Sept. 24, 1941.
Lake Arthur Police Chief Colter Childress said the Pecos River runs nearly five miles through the southern Chaves County village.
“For us, we’re just making sure people are being cautious,” he said.
The Midland, Texas station of the National Weather Service also issued a flood warning for the Pecos River 6 miles east of Artesia.
Around 3:15 a.m. Tuesday, the flood stage was 8.3 feet. The Pecos River there may rise to a flood stage of 12.5 feet just after 12 a.m. Wednesday, according to an NWS website.
Minor flooding was forecast along the river which reached a previous flood crest of 11.5 feet in 1991.