Airlift canceled for NM town isolated by flooding

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An emergency ground delivery of food, water and other supplies was planned Tuesday for a tiny western New Mexico community that remained isolated after weekend flooding damaged the only paved road leading to it.

New Mexico Department of Homeland Security spokesman Estevan Lujan said state authorities and the National Guard planned to deliver ready-made meals and other supplies by foot to residents of the privately run ghost town of Mogollon.

Lujan said the original planned airlift was canceled after officials determined there was not enough space to land a helicopter.

Officials said a creek paralleling the one paved road into town — state Route 159 — surged from its banks after heavy rains and made the road inaccessible from a mile outside the community.

A spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez said the governor was scheduled to tour part of the Gila later Tuesday and attempt to visit Mogollon.

"She will visit as close to Mogollon as she can, likely the spot on the road that is washed out," spokesman Enrique C. Knell said.

Roughly 15 residents live year-round in Mogollon, a former mining town nestled in the mountains.

Meanwhile, forecasters said flash flooding was less likely in much of northern and central New Mexico. But continued rain was keeping that threat alive in some areas, particularly on the eastern plains south of Interstate 40.

"Comparing this week with last week, we're definitely going to be quieting down," said Christopher Luckett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.

Authorities planned to use a bulldozer to scrape out a makeshift road for four-wheel drive vehicles. Tafoya said there was no estimate on when the work would be completed.

Martinez approved the emergency delivery to Mogollon.

Mogollon wasn't the only town hit-hard with flooding in the Gila National Forest, an area devastated by last year's Whitewater-Baldy Fire. That blaze raced through the Gila and became the largest in the state's recorded history, leaving burn scars.

Marianne Sutton, owner of the Whitewater Motel in Glenwood, said the basement of her motel was flooded starting late Sunday when a nearby creek overflowed its banks. She evacuated guests from three rooms. Water filled her backyard and floated the propane tank that serves the motel.

"It was horrendous," she said in a telephone interview Monday night.

She was left with no hot water or propane, and said her septic system might have been compromised by the flooding.

Whitewater Creek swept up debris, including burnt logs from a fire in the mountains last year. The debris snagged on a bridge in town, Sutton said.

Gila National Forest spokeswoman Andrea Martinez said most of the forest was saturated was water and many roads were inaccessible. "All creeks and arroyos are full," Martinez said. "We are advising everyone to stay off the roads if they can."

Meanwhile, the American Red Cross said it has opened a new shelter in Crownpoint in northwestern New Mexico.

That shelter at Crownpoint High School is being used by Navajo Technical University students. They'd been in a temporary shelter because of storm damage to the university campus last week.

Officials in Farmington and San Juan Country say initial estimates put damage from the heavy rain and flood at more than $1 million on public lands there. According to officials, the severe weather damaged roads, bridges and rainwater drainage systems.