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Once gripped by drought, N.M. battles record rainfall

Published September 16, 2013 8:21 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Albuquerque, N.M. • Another round of rainfall moved across New Mexico on Sunday, renewing the threat of heavy runoff from already saturated soils and flooding in low areas as residents faced a major cleanup from damage left in the wake of days of relentless rain.

The National Weather Service issued a flash-flood watch for much of central and northern New Mexico. In the northeastern corner of the state, where the chance for heavy rain was greatest, residents along the Gallinas River were warned that the waterway could swell again.

"I wouldn't be surprised if more records are broken as far as one-day rainfall totals because we still have that abundant moisture in the area," said Jason Frazier, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.

For a state that has been in the grasp of an unprecedented drought, numerous records have fallen in the past week as floodwaters have broken through dams, inundating neighborhoods and leaving behind muddy swaths of debris.

Some areas received close to 10 inches of rain since the deluge started Tuesday. Parts of Albuquerque have seen more than 4 inches, marking the wettest September on record for the city.

"A lot of locations have had more moisture for the month of September than they've had all this year or maybe even all of last year as well," Frazier said.

All the rain is helping New Mexico out of the drought, but the cost has been high. At least one person has been killed, and state officials estimate the overflowing rivers and runoff have caused millions of dollars in damage.

The massive flooding prompted Gov. Susana Martinez to issue a state of emergency Friday, opening up recovery funding for roads. She toured some of the water-logged areas Saturday.