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Floods wreak havoc on LA; Roads reopened

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By Tris DeRoma

Overnight rains continued to soak the area and residents woke up this morning to substantial flooding in various areas throughout Los Alamos.

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“If you don’t have to go anywhere, then I recommend you stay off the roads until further notice,” said Preston Ballew, the public information officer for the Los Alamos Police Department.

Ballew is reporting that nearly all the major roads leading in and out of Los Alamos were closed for a couple of hours, due to rock slides and flooding. Ballew said all roads were open as of 11 a.m.

The National Weather Service has reported a mudslide occurred at 9:07 a.m. near the Totavi gas station toward the bottom of the hill.  Driving up N.M. 502 toward Los Alamos, there was a sign, warning commuters that there was debris in the road.

The road was passable but there also were two accidents that the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department was tending to.

Ballew, meanwhile, added that his resources are “spread very thin right now, with flooding reported in sections of the Los Alamos National Laboratory as well as residential areas, such as areas of Quemazon near Esperanza and Sol.

Los Alamos County provided the following update.

ROAD CONDITIONS UPDATE –All roads in Los Alamos County are now OPEN. Los Alamos County crews will continue to deal with all flooding and road issues by priority.  The county urged residents to be patient and to avoid travel if possible.

Santa Fe Fire Dept., meanwhile, reported a downed power line on N.M. 502 .25 miles from Totavi. The road was closed for an hour in both directions but was reopened.

NM Roads is reporting (11:34a.m.) State N.M. 4 northbound and southbound from mile marker 5 to mile marker 46 to have flooding and debris. (NM 4, mile marker 5 to 46 from north of San Ysidro to the Los Alamos County Line).  Travel is discouraged at this time.

WEATHER CONDITIONS UPDATE: The National Weather Service has extended the Flash flood warning for Los Alamos County to 5 p.m. Avoid flood areas and canyons.

FLOODING CONDITIONS UPDATE: In Los Alamos - Esperanza & Sol in Quemazon there was flooding into homes, the Stables are flooding and parks crews are working on it; in White Rock - Sherwood Boulevard is flooded, and Joya Loop is flooding into homes; most roads have significant amounts of standing water throughout the county.

Many residents have been calling 311 & LAPD regarding flooding in their homes. For sandbags and/or assistance, please review the following:

• If it’s an emergency: Call 911, and LAPD will dispatch LAFD to help mitigate the situation.

• If it’s only precautionary: Los Alamos County is providing sand bags for residents at the Pajarito Cliffs Site, 101 Camino Entrada, just inside the gate at the Sand Barn. Signs are posted to help direct people. If you have any questions, please call 662-8113 for more information.

Most roads have significant amounts of standing water throughout the County. Please avoid travel if at all possible.

The brand-new bio-fuels lab also suffered flood damage as they sustained retaining wall failures.

According to a statement from Katharine Chartrand, the executive director of the New Mexico Consortium, “"Due to the extraordinary rain, we had dramatic retaining wall failures this morning in the Entrada development that have affected the Biolab.  There is no immediate threat to the building.  There were no injuries. We have normal operations.  But the event and its aftermath are quite impressive.”

More on the biofuels lab will be available in Sunday’s Los Alamos Monitor.

According to spokesperson Claudia Brookshire, Bandelier National Monument will be closed Friday and Saturday.

“We hope to re-open Sunday depending on weather,” Brookshire said.  “We had flooding yesterday around 4:45 pm with waters just breaching the banks of the creek and flowing into the parking lot.  This morning with the increased moisture and heavy rains we received another flood where waters flowed through the parking lot.”

Kerry Jones, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service said what Los Alamos is going through Friday is rare. Jones said it was expected to taper off in the afternoon.

“We are in a very dangerous situation right now,” he said.

How rare the storm event is remains to be calculated but the incoming stats on the storm he’s been receiving he said have been astonishing.

“We just received a report that Los Alamos received an inch of rain in 10 minutes, and that’s just incredible,” he said. “That’s very extreme.”

Just in case you have to be on the roads Friday, Jones is asking residents to obey all signs and stay safe and use common sense.

“Never go around barricades,” Jones said. “I know the county is out right now trying to put up barricades, if they can even access these areas.”

Jones also said this event should serve as a wakeup call to residents.

“If you live in a flood-prone area of the county, you need to have an evacuation plan, and don’t waste time trying to save personal property,” he said. “You need to get out of there quickly; If you’re in the path of a flash flood, your margin of safety can be counted in seconds.”

Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent of Gene Schmidt said they are working with county and lab emergency management personnel.

“Right now, the safest place for the kids is in school,” Schmidt said.

DPU spokesperson Julie Williams-Hill said there have been no reported power outages.

Residents in the Jemez are holding on, but they have been reporting problems, too.

A temporary fix Sandoval County made to a washout section of Elk Trail Road is now gone, according to Jemez Springs resident Sharron Crane, who lives on Elk Trail. Unfortunately for her and about 30 other families, they live on the other side of the washout, which has effectively cut them off from emergency services.