Thunderstorm pummels Los Alamos area

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Weather > Storm prompts heavy volume to Los Alamos county dispatch

By John Severance

A massive thunderstorm rumbled across Los Alamos near the noon hour Friday, causing several power outages, numerous calls from residents to emergency dispatch, a minor rockslide on the Truck Route, along with some isolated flooding.


The storm rolled in about 11:30 a.m. and Kerry Jones from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Albuquerque said there was a reading of 1.63 inches of rain in Los Alamos.

Jones said the reading comes from a volunteer observer at the Los Alamos post office who participates in the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow or CoCoRaHS network.

Jones said there are precipitation gauges at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the airport and their highest reading was 1.23 inches.

There were reports of some stranded hikers in Pueblo Canyon when the rains hit. LAFD Deputy Chief Justin Grider said one of his crews intercepted the hikers at the Sewage Treatment plant and escorted them out.
Grider also said there was a lightning strike in the Santa Fe National Forest.

“We have eyes on it,” Grider said. “And it’s within the Cerro Grande burn scar.”

There was no smoke visible from the town site, Grider said.

According to DPU spokesperson Julie Williams-Hill, Friday’s storm caused hundreds of Los Alamos customers around town to temporarily lose power.  

North Community, Quemazon, Ponderosa Estates, the ski hill, several homes in both the Fairway and Villa neighborhoods as well as Aspen School all lost power about the same time. Linemen with the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities restored power to the various locations. 

Acting Los Alamos Police Chief Phil Taylor said there were 168 calls from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. “It was more than a call a minute,” Taylor said.

The rockslide on the Truck Route, meanwhile, was near the entrance to the LANSCE portion of the laboratory. LANL crews cleared boulders and rock quickly and there was minimal disruption to traffic. 

The biggest problem from the storm, though, seemed to be flooding.

There were reports in town of flooding in the community building near Ashley Pond, which affected the Pac-8 station and the old county attorney office.

In addition, Grider said there was some minor flooding at the Animal Shelter but a crew was dispatch to help clean up the water.

 And Ashley Pond, itself, had at least a foot of water in it from the hour-long deluge.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory was affected as well.

According to lab spokesman Steve Sandoval, Building 1 at TA-59 sustained some minor flooding.

“There were no evacuations,” Sandoval said. “LA Fire and our Emergency Management folks called out. There is a metal stairwell that employees can use to access the building; the stairwell starts from the surface parking lot off Pajarito Road just east of the intersection of Diamond Drive/Pajarito Road. Lots of water was pouring from the road down the stairwell and some came into Building 1. The stairwell has been closed as a safety precaution.”

There also was some minor flooding at Building 3 at TA-63.

“The building lost power. The facility manager for that building estimates less than 10 gallons came into the building under a door,” Sandoval said. “Employees who work near this building put down some sandbags around the door to redirect any additional water. Emergency Management was called out to that one, too. No one was evacuated from this building, which is more storage than office.”