Village of Ruidoso Fire Department Chief Joe Kasuboski said the summer monsoon in the mountains of the Lincoln National Forest were both a blessing and a curse as firefighters dealt with flooding rains amid a statewide drought.
“It’s great there’s no more wildfires at this time, which is a big thing for the Village of Ruidoso,” he said.
Earlier this year the McBride Fire burned around 6,000 acres in Lincoln County and the Lincoln National Forest. Two people died as a result and over 200 structures were burned.
The burn scar, which stretched across Gavilan Canyon, was washed by flood waters after 4.39 inches of rain fell this month. That’s nearly 2 inches more than average for the region, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Houk.
“When rain comes heavy in a short period of time it can flow down hill a lot faster as areas below the burn scar are more susceptible (to flooding),” said Houk.
Houk said a combined 5.69 inches of rain fell in Ruidoso during June and July, and that so far this year 12.23 inches of rain has fallen on the southeastern New Mexico community.
Kasuboski said the weather and its perilous consequences have created a great deal of concern, especially the last three months when constant rain fell on the burn scar of the McBride Fire forcing the village to close Gavilan Canyon Road “several days a week.”
“It means we have to be on our toes, and I’ve got to be more focused that the public is safe, and my firefighters are safe. It puts a little more on my plate as well in the way of flooding,” he said.
“We’ve had a lot of debris and water coming off the burn scar coming down Gavilan Canyon, which is a narrow canyon with a drainage (area) which has been washing large amounts of debris into the road along with water flowing across the roads as well,” Kasuboski said.
He said flood waters and the task of keeping residents and motorists safe can create stress for personnel in his department.
“We see rain coming in at one or two o’clock in the morning and we’re getting out and having to deal with it at that time around the clock,” Kasuboski said.
“We have a lot on our minds so we’re on our toes and we’re tired because we are dealing with it around the clock.”
Meanwhile, the Village of Ruidoso may soon need to deal with the debris carried by rushing water from the burn scar that Houk said can create havoc for other flood channels near Gavilan Canyon.
The major concern is blockage, and where water will flow when its usual paths are blocked.
Lynn Johnson who lives eight miles outside of Ruidoso proper said he has yet to see any impact from the rainy weather, though Ruidoso and Lincoln County residents have had enough to deal with this year.
“The fire they had to endure, and the floods came. The people have had it this year,” Johnson said.
Still Johnson said he’s grateful for the rain as the state of New Mexico, its public lands and businesses deal with continued drought conditions.
“Everybody needs the rain. These trees are so stressed out. They’ve got some new growth on them,” he added.
Houk said Ruidoso was spared from monsoon rains Thursday. He said the chance of rain in the are increases Friday heading into the weekend.
“A better chance may take shape during the day Saturday that could cause some problems,” he said.
Flood concerns continue in Eddy County
Flood warnings along the Pecos River near Artesia extended into Thursday, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
The Pecos River overflowed its banks east of Dexter earlier this week flooding roads, fields and residences said Dexter Fire and Rescue Fire Chief Justin Powell.
NWS in Albuquerque said water levels in the Pecos River near Lake Arthur in southern Chaves County reached 12.2 feet at 7:15 a.m. Thursday.
Water levels were predicted to increase Friday morning and crest at 25.4 feet early Saturday morning.
Flood warnings for the Pecos River east of Artesia were in are in effect Saturday morning to late Sunday morning, according to NWS in Midland, Texas.
Observed water levels were 9.9 feet Thursday morning. Flood stage is 12.5 feet, and the river was expected to crest at 12.7 feet early Saturday afternoon. Flood waters were forecast to recede by late Saturday night, per NWS.
Trial erosion and flooding closed wilderness areas and backcountry trails at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. U.S. National Park Service officials said those areas will remain closed until assessments and repairs are complete.
“Flooding also caused major damage to the unpaved Walnut Canyon Desert Drive. Until assessments are completed, it is unknown when repairs will begin,” said Laura Steele, chief ranger at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
The trails closed include Old Guano, Slaughter Canyon, Yucca Canyon, Guadalupe Ridge, Rattlesnake Canyon, Juniper Ridge, Double Canyon, and Ussery, according to the press release.
The main park road, Carlsbad Caverns visitor center, overlook trails and Rattle Snake Springs remain open.
Reservations are required to enter Carlsbad Cavern and can be made at recreation.gov or 877-444-6777.