Roads throughout southeast New Mexico could risk being damaged as heavy summer rains were expected to fall throughout the region this week.
Francisco Sanchez, district engineer with the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT)’s District 2, which oversees state roads in southeast New Mexico, said his staff is ready to respond to any damage that could impede traffic or threaten the safety of drivers.
Although heavy rains and flooding in mid-to-late August led to multiple road closures in southeast New Mexico, Sanchez said state highways so far survived the downpours.
“Most of the impact was to county roads or local roads. Our highways held up fairly well with the amount of rain received in a short amount of time. We did have to close a couple of highways due to standing water,” he said.
“Our patrols are ready to get out there on a moment’s notice to either close roads or if they were washed out they would have to rebuild them, or we could get them patched up where we could get more traffic on them.”
Heavy rains during the weekend of Aug. 20 increased water flow along the Pecos River from Roswell to Artesia, impacting local communities and infrastructure along the river.
Waters from the river overflowed and damaged pavement and farmland near Dexter in Chaves County on Aug. 23 and Aug. 24, said Dexter Fire and Rescue Chief Justin Powell in social media posts.
Sanchez said NMDOT monitored the weather nearly nine days ago and prepared maintenance patrols in the other five districts across New Mexico.
Sanchez said standing water was the No. 1 risk to paved roads as highways and roadways were constructed in layers.
“We have what we call our sub layer, which is compacted dirt and a fill on top and our pavement. So when water stands there it does filtrate and it starts to erode the structures underneath and the pavement. Where there’s areas where we see standing water and we don’t have proper drainage you will roads deteriorate a lot quicker,” he said.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Midland, Texas issued a flash flood watch for Eddy County from Monday afternoon until Tuesday evening.
NWS forecasted 1 to 3 inches of rainfall in southeast New Mexico and west Texas during the watch period.
“Excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams and other low-lying and flood-prone locations,” read an NWS statement.
Flooding was forecast in poor drainage and urban areas as creeks and streams were running high from recent rains, according to NWS.
Carlsbad Fire Department Chief Richard Lopez said firefighting personnel would monitor flood gauges around the City along with nearby arroyos.
He said heavy flood waters might prompt closing of some water crossings in the City limits.
Flood watches were not limited to Eddy County according to the NWS in Albuquerque. A flash flood watch was in effect for Chaves Monday from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. Tuesday.
Chaves County Undersheriff Charles Yslas said his office was prepared after heavy rains nearly two weeks ago flooded the Pecos River near Roswell.
“We’re watching it extremely close. We’re preparing for it,” he said. “We have deputies watch low level (water) areas. We’ll shutdown roads if needed.”
Yslas said drivers need to pay attention to barricades on flooded roads.
“The danger is below the water. Mother nature is deceiving,” he said.