Local News

  • Explosions rock flood-crippled chemical plant near Houston

    CROSBY, Texas (AP) — Explosions and fires rocked a flood-crippled chemical plant near Houston early Thursday, sending up a plume of acrid, eye-irritating smoke and adding a new hazard to Hurricane Harvey's aftermath.

    The plant's owners warned more explosions could follow because a loss of refrigeration was causing chemicals stored there to degrade and burn.

    The Environmental Protection Agency and local officials said an analysis of the air for any health dangers showed no reason for alarm. And there were no immediate reports of any serious injuries.

    Dozens of workers were pulled out of the Arkema Inc. plant before the hurricane hit, and a small crew of 11 that had been left behind was evacuated before the blasts for fear of just such a disaster. Officials had also ordered people living within 1½ miles (2.4 kilometers) to leave on Tuesday.

    Fire and plant officials said the substances that caught fire were organic peroxides, a family of volatile compounds used for making a variety of products, including pharmaceuticals and construction materials.

  • LANB to accept donations for Harvey storm victims

    Los Alamos National Bank has partnered with the American Red Cross and the Food Depot to gather donations for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.  

    For this initiative to be successful, LANB is requesting the community’s help. LANB will be accepting monetary donations, along with non-perishable food items and other items requested by the Food Depot.

    Monetary donations will be accepted at any LANB branch location or can be sent online at redcross.org/lanb.

    Donations for the Food Depot can be dropped off at any LANB branch location, including in Los Alamos and White Rock. At this time, only specific items are needed, including hand-held snack items, such as granola bars, pop-top ready-to-eat items, shelf-stable pantry items such as peanut butter, tuna and soup, bottled water, cleaning supplies (bleach, non-bleach, paper towels, etc.), personal hygiene items (toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.).  They are asking the community not to donate send toys, clothing or furniture.

    LANB branch locations are: 1200 Trinity Drive in Los Alamos, 77 Rover Blvd. in White Rock, 301 Griffin St. in Santa Fe, 2009 Galisteo St. in Santa Fe, 3674 Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe, and 7445 Pan American Fwy NE in Albuquerque.

  • Gas leak on Central Ave, traffic diverted

    The Department of Public Utilities has released the following statement:

    "Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities is responding to a natural gas leak detected on Central Ave across from the  county Municipal Building.  To repair the main, crews are closing the east bound lane on Central between Knecht and 9 St .  East bound traffic will be rerouted to Trinity Ave at Knecht.  Crews on scene indicate that repairs will continue into the evening and that the road will be open before Thursday morning."

  • O'Leary, Chrobocinski cleared in county ethics complaint

    A special investigator hired by Los Alamos County to investigate an ethics complaint by citizen Patrick Brenner filed against Los Alamos County Council Vice Chair Susan O'Leary and James Crobocinski has found no basis for the complaint, according to the report released Wednesday.

    “Neither Ms. O'Leary nor Mr. Chrobocinski violated the Los Alamos Code of Conduct,” Attorney John Round said in the report.

    Brenner alleged in his complaint that O'Leary violated public trust by forwarding an email to the LA Daily Post an email Brenner sent to O'Leary and members of the Los Alamos County Council.

    Chrobocinski sent the email to Los Alamos County Police Chief Dino Sgambellone, saying he was concerned for the wellbeing of his fellow councilors and his family.

    Brenner alleged in his complaint that the two councilors sent his, by his own admission, poorly worded email out into the public to disparage him and make him look bad, a violation of public trust.

    Brenner also claimed that Chrobocinski and O'Leary had a conflict of interest when they organized a political action committee, the Los Alamos Future, a PAC set up to promote passing the $20 million recreation bond in May.

  • State land commissioner offers extension to Houston-based oil and gas lessees

    State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has offered a grace period to Houston-based oil and gas lessees that pay royalties and interest on oil, gas, and carbon dioxide extracted from New Mexico State Trust Lands, Dunn announced Wednesday.

    “Hurricane Harvey’s destruction is far-reaching and will cause substantial revenue volatility in New Mexico,” Dunn said. “By disrupting a key hub of the nation’s energy industry, Harvey will impact the revenues the State Land Office collects and distributes to the schools and institutions that count on us to pay their bills.”

    The state’s general fund will be impacted as well due to suspended production. The oil and gas industry contributes more than $2 billion per year in revenues for operations, capital projects, and permanent funds. 

    Dunn said about 40 percent of severance taxes collected by the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department are paid by Houston-based companies. Federal mineral leases contribute about half-a-billion dollars to the general fund.

  • Machine-learning earthquake prediction in lab shows promise

    Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory are working with machines that may make future prediction of earthquakes possible.

    By listening to the acoustic signal emitted by a laboratory-created earthquake, a computer science approach using machine learning can predict the time remaining before the fault fails.

    “At any given instant, the noise coming from the lab fault zone provides quantitative information on when the fault will slip,” said Paul Johnson, LANL fellow and lead investigator on the research, which was published Wednesday in Geophysical Research Letters.

    “The novelty of our work is the use of machine learning to discover and understand new physics of failure, through examination of the recorded auditory signal from the experimental setup. I think the future of earthquake physics will rely heavily on machine learning to process massive amounts of raw seismic data. Our work represents an important step in this direction,” he said.

    Not only does the work have potential significance to earthquake forecasting, Johnson said, but the approach is far-reaching, applicable to potentially all failure scenarios including nondestructive testing of industrial materials brittle failure of all kinds, avalanches and other events.

  • LAPD advises caution after thefts

    Los Alamos Police Department advise local shoppers to take precautions following recent incidents at the at the Los Alamos Smith’s Marketplace.

    According to the police, an individual reportedly attempted to steal a woman’s purse. Although no arrests have been made, the case is still active and under investigation.

    The Monitor will have more info on the incident in an upcoming edition.

    This incident follows a recent robbery of an elderly woman’s purse that began in the Smith’s parking lot and ended with her beaten in her own driveway.

    On May 12, an unknown woman came up to the victim, offered unsolicited help and then asked for some change. After opening the wallet to retrieve some coins, the woman was able to see the wallet’s contents, which contained cash. The victim was presumably followed home from the grocery store and was assaulted and robbed of her purse.

    As a public service announcement on the heels of such events, LAPD Commander Preston Ballew advised the public to pay attention to their surroundings and park as close to the store as possible.

    If anyone feels that they are being followed, do not go home and drive to police department, or dial 911.

    “Don’t fight back because who knows what could happen,” Ballew said.

  • Shoplifters arrested after fleeing, attempting to run over officer

    Two men were arrested this week after shoplifting and fleeing from police. The suspects crashed a truck after fleeing from Smith’s Marketplace in Los Alamos Friday.

    An unknown amount of suspects were involved in the shoplifting and accident, but Stephen Jaymes Montano and Joel A. Martin, were located and arrested that night, according to Los Alamos Police Department.

    Montano and Martin were arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, aggravated fleeing, shoplifting, leaving the scene of a crash, reckless driving and criminal damage to property. Montano also had the two active bench warrants.

    Around 9:45 p.m. on Friday, Los Alamos Police Department Cpl. J. Montoya was dispatched to a shoplifting incident involving a white Nissan Titan pickup truck.

    The suspects drove out of the Smith’s Marketplace parking lot, heading east on East Road, turned right onto Arroyo Lane, then right onto Verde Ridge Road.

    Around 10:10 p.m., Cpl. R. Larsen advised over radio that shots were fired and the white Nissan truck was fleeing from him.

    The white truck then wrecked on Verde Ridge and Arroyo Lane. The suspects had turned around in the cul de sac at the end, ran over a group of mailboxes, then crashed the truck into two cars parked on Arroyo Lane.

  • Santa Fe Archdiocese collecting donations for Harvey relief

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The Archdiocese of Santa Fe and Catholic Charities of New Mexico are organizing donation efforts for those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana.

    The Archdiocese of Santa Fe announced Tuesday that the two entities are collecting donations online to be given to Catholic Charities in southeast Texas and Louisiana.

    In addition, all Archdiocese of Santa Fe parishes have been invited to participate in a second collection during the weekend of Sept. 17 to aid those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

  • Floodwaters drop across much of Houston; death toll at 20

    By NOMAAN MERCHANT and JUAN LOZANO, Associated Press

    HOUSTON (AP) — Harvey's floodwaters began to drop across much of the Houston area and the sun peeked through thinning clouds Wednesday in the biggest glimmer of hope in days for the besieged city. But as the crisis eases, the storm could begin to give up its dead.

    "We have good news," said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District. "The water levels are going down. And that's for the first time in several days."

    The number of confirmed deaths rose to 20 when authorities reported that two men drowned on Monday. One of them drove around a barricade and into standing water, while the other tried to swim across a flooded road.

    Authorities expect the toll to rise as the waters recede and they are able to take full stock of the death and destruction wrought by the hurricane.

    Many thousands of homes in and around the nation's fourth-largest city were still swamped and could stay that way for days or longer. And some Houston-area neighborhoods were still in danger of more flooding from a levee breach.

    Officials said 911 call centers in the Houston area were still getting more than 1,000 calls an hour from people seeking help.