Enough rain fell during Friday night’s thunderstorms to form this small lake in The Home Depot parking lot on North Main Street. Drivers of trucks and SUVs with high clearance seemed to enjoy taking a jaunt through the water rather than driving around it like those driving smaller vehicles. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)
As the old saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.”
Those in the Roswell area longing for rain got a boatload early Saturday, and during the most inopportune time, the city’s busiest tourism weekend of the year.
Chaves County emergency manager Karen Sanders said the Roswell International Air Center received 4.39 inches of rain Saturday, following earlier rainfall Thursday night and Friday morning.
“That was the most within this area,” Sanders said. “There was just a lot of residential street flooding all throughout the city of Roswell. We like the rain, just maybe not so much at one time.”
Mayor Dennis Kintigh said the nearly 4.4 inches of rain was a record rainfall in a 24-hour period at the airport.
“The terminal was flooded for a while this morning,” Kintigh said Saturday. “Water came in through the west doors. They ended up putting some sandbags out there. The first flight was at least 2 hours late.”
Several flights were delayed Saturday.
“By the time I got there at 9 (a.m.), it had been dried out,” the mayor said. “The water was gone from the terminal.”
Sanders said within about 50 minutes, almost 1.5 inches of rain fell early Saturday at the airport.
“That’s in addition to what we already had,” Sanders said. “Throughout the city, there were just tons of streets that were flooded.”
A total of 1.95 inches of rain were recorded in a 24-hour period between 12:01 a.m. Friday and midnight Friday at the Daily Record’s weather monitor.
The sudden rain delayed by several hours Saturday’s kick-off of the Hike It & Spike It flag football tournament at Cielo Grande. The first games were set to start at 8:30 a.m., but did not get under way until 11:30 a.m.
Game halves were shortened from 12 minutes to 8 minutes to make up for the lost time.
“They had to relocate some of the playing fields,” Kintigh said.
Local tournament co-organizer Jim Matteucci said the event was back on schedule by Saturday night.
“We are back on track,” Matteucci said. “We did successfully complete day one of the tournament. The only change we made was shorten the halves from 12 minutes to 8 minutes. Because of the mass amounts of water, we had to relocate four of our fields because they were under water. We just had to slightly modify the field layout.”
Matteucci credited the tournament’s staff and volunteers for patching things together.
“It was absolutely amazing how our volunteers and staff pulled together today and made this tournament come off without a hitch,” he said. “We faced a massive diaster out here and all the players and fans had an amazing time and that was because of our staff and volunteers.”
Commencement ceremonies at New Mexico Military Institute on Saturday, scheduled to take place at Colt Field, were moved indoors into Pearson Auditorium and divided into two sessions due to the inclement weather.
Several Roswell streets were flooded late Friday and early Saturday, the mayor reported, such as the intersection of West Brasher Road and South Main Street.
“That was one of many,” Kintigh said. “One of the challenges we had was we didn’t have enough street barricades because a bunch of them were tied up for the Hike It & Spike It event. I know one of the worst areas was Atkinson (Avenue), south of McGaffey (Street).”
Atkinson Avenue remained closed Saturday afternoon due to the flash flooding.
“That was very bad. That was around noon and it was still blocked off,” Kintigh said, adding a retention pond west of Atkinson Avenue filled to the surprise of city workers.
“That’s the first time they’ve ever seen that full,” the mayor said, adding at least two city employees canceled their weekend holiday plans to work Saturday morning.
“Streets were flooded last night,” Sgt. Charles Corn of the Roswell Police Department said Saturday. “We had lots of hard rain, but I don’t know if there was any damage or not.”
There were reports of several motorists becoming stuck in the water, particularly at the city’s intersections.
Kintigh said he himself became stuck driving his pickup truck along Atkinson Avenue.
“Don’t ignore the barricades, please don’t do that,” Kintigh said. “If you do, you could end up getting stuck like the mayor did this morning on Atkinson. Actually, I didn’t ignore the barricade, we didn’t have enough barricades. I was driving northbound on Atkinson. Long story short, I got stuck in the mud trying to avoid the water. Yours truly was directing traffic for about 20 minutes at Hobbs and Atkinson.”
The mayor said Urton Road Bridge, going over Berrendo Creek, was damaged by water and closed Saturday.
“That bridge was heavily damaged in the flooding we had in September,” Kintigh said.
“We rebuilt it and its got some more damage,” Sanders said.
Sanders said the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management issued a sandbag machine and sandbags to Chaves County due to the sudden rainfall. She said about 1,500 sandbags were filled Saturday by community service workers and picked up by residents at the city yard in the 200 block of East Alameda Street.
There were no reports of injuries due to the flooding, but Sanders said parents need to be vigilant keeping children out of dangerous areas.
“We saw a child playing in the water today, in one of those creeks, across from the Boys & Girls Club,” Sanders said. “We want to urge parents not to let children play in those waters. It’s just dangerous.”
Chaves County was under a thunderstorm watch Saturday night. The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the northern part of Chaves County, after a possible tornado sighting about 39 miles north of Roswell, Sanders said.