FARMINGTON — Several areas of San Juan County flooded Thursday night, and officials are preparing for more flooding this weekend.

San Juan County experienced monsoonal rainfall this week, as did much of New Mexico. Heavy rains brought flash floods that stopped traffic, damaged property and carried debris throughout the county.

As waters receded, residents left their houses to examine the damage and prepare for the next round.

"You just start watching things and see where it can do damage," said Bob Culp, who lives in the Rancho de Animas subdivision.

Rainwater on Thursday cut a ditch 2 feet deep through his property, narrowly missing his sprinkler system.

ROAD CONDITIONS

The sheriff s office advised residents to be aware of the following situation on roads:

N.M. Highway 550 has debris as a result of the flooding. The debris is located through the 166 to the 168 mile markers. If more rain occurs, flooding is expected in the stretch. Drive with extreme caution.

U.S. Highway 64 near the 55 mile marker had a large amount of debris and rocks reported on it, as of 4 a.m. Thursday.

The intersection of U.S. Highway 64 and N.M. Highway 511 had a large amount of debris in the road and was only passable with a four-wheel drive truck until cleaned Thursday. This is an area of concern if it floods again. Drive with extreme caution.

County Road 5290 has sections of the road washed out and missing. Also some animal corrals were washed away.

County Road 5109 has several homes that have been flooded.

County Road 5099 had several propane tanks floating in the wash. The tanks were leaking propane and smashing together in the water. Water broke the tanks from their foundation. Fire crews contained the tanks and stopped the propane leak.

County Road 5500 had water flowing over the bridge from the river and made the road impassible for several hours. Deputies blocked the road until safe for travel. No road or bridge damage was reported.

County Road 3000 between the 8 and 10 mile markers had a large amount of debris covering the road and is impassible. A large amount of running water was reported in the area. This is expected to occur again if additional rains hit the area. Do not cross any running water in this area, which includes County Road 3000 in the County Road 3950 area and County Road 3950.

County Road 4990 had three locations that were washed out and were passable by vehicle. Use caution in this area.

N.M. Highway 173 at the 10 mile marker was washed out and not passable by vehicle. State road crews worked on the area at 6 a.m. Thursday

County Road 4599 at about the 5 mile marker had the south side of the road washed out. It is only a single lane of traffic.

County Road 3955/County Road 3959 were washed out and impassible. Road crews worked on the area Thursday.

County Road 5584 was washed out and impassable. Road crews worked on the area Thursday.

SOURCE: The San Juan County Sheriff's Office

Culp said he was grateful to the city staff who helped him clean up on Thursday. Firefighters, the city engineer and city councilor Dan Darnell helped residents clean up the neighborhood, he said.

"You don't see a city councilor at the end of the shovel very often," Culp said, as he loaded a wheelbarrow with rocks to stabilize the newly-formed ditch.

The San Juan County Communications Authority and fire, emergency medical services, road, management and sheriff's office personnel created a tactical operations center to better coordinate emergency responses this weekend, said sheriff's office spokeswoman Beth Utley in a prepared statement.

"We're waiting for the next storm and trying to handle the last one," said County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter.

The month isn't even half over, and Farmington has already received nearly three times as much rain as it typically gets in the entire month of September.

Farmington received 2.22 inches of rain from Monday to Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. The precipitation was measured at the Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington.

Tropical funnel clouds appear in the sky on Friday afternoon near the San Juan Generating Station in Waterflow. Tropical funnel clouds, which rarely make
Tropical funnel clouds appear in the sky on Friday afternoon near the San Juan Generating Station in Waterflow. Tropical funnel clouds, which rarely make contact with the ground, are much more short-lived than funnel clouds, according to the National Weather Service. (Courtesy of Mark Grubis)

The city receives an average of .78 inches of rain in September.

So far this year, Farmington has received 6.48 inches of rain, which is at 112 percent of the average rate for this time of year.

There is a 40 to 50 percent change of rain today and a 30 percent chance of showers Sunday, said Jason Frazier, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. Next week, Monday to Wednesday each bring a 10 to 20 percent change of storms.

Carpenter said officials are concerned this week's heavy rains have carried debris into natural arroyos and drainage systems throughout the county, which could slow draining and increase damage if there are more heavy rains.

Bob Culp uses a shovel Friday to measure the ditch that formed on his property in the Rancho de Animas subdivision in Farmington.
Bob Culp uses a shovel Friday to measure the ditch that formed on his property in the Rancho de Animas subdivision in Farmington. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

"We're trying to do what we can to clean off debris, so in the event that the water hits again, we have a passage," Carpenter said. "It's really going to be an issue. The fire department is really concerned that the drains are plugged up."

Recent rains have also damaged county roads and bridges, Carpenter said. The extent of the damage is not yet known.

Widespread damage to private property was reported across the county, Carpenter said. Heavy flooding hit the 4000-series county roads west of Bloomfield.

"We're facing months of intense cleanup," Carpenter said.

Utley said several water users' associations reported infrastructure damage, and, as a result, many homes were without water Thursday morning.

The sheriff's office is asking resident to prepare for more flooding.

The county Public Works Department is providing residents empty sand bags at the department's lower yard on South Oliver Road in Aztec. Residents are also advised to limit travel this weekend.

If people need to report flooding, call non-emergency dispatch at 505-334-6622. Do not call 911 to report flooding. To report flooding to the City of Farmington, call 505-599-1100.

Frazier said the increased rainfall can be attributed to a combination of two factors: an upper level low pressure system over Utah and tropical moisture from the gulf of California.

"It's been continuously over New Mexico and that abundance of moisture has really created a situation where we've had tremendous rainfall amounts," Frazier said.

The tropical moisture plume also means that the rains don't stop and start, as New Mexico's thunderstorms often do. Instead, the rain has been heavy and consistent, Frazier said.

"It tends to be more widespread and have more aerial coverage than an individual thunderstorm," Frazier said of the recent rains.

The rain was not the only unusual part of local weather this week.

Several residents reported clouds near Shiprock and Waterflow resembling funnel clouds. National Weather Service meteorologists say they are aware of the formations, which they are calling tropical funnel clouds. Tropical funnels rarely make contact with the ground and are much more short-lived than classic funnel clouds, according to the National Weather Service.

No tornado watches nor warnings have been issued in the Four Corners, Frazier said.

"This is just primarily a flash flood and flooding type of scenario we've been in," he said.

Ryan Boetel covers crime and San Juan County for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.

Reporter Hannah Grover and City Editor Magdalena Wegrzyn contributed to this story.