Parts of San Juan County experience torrential rain, flooding

More precipitation in forecast for area through weekend

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • A total of 1.76 inches of rain was reported on July 26 from Navajo Dam.
  • A report of 1.5 inches was received from Narbona Pass in the Chuska Mountains.
  • The Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington saw only 0.03 inches of precipitation that day.

FARMINGTON − By their nature, monsoon storms can be a hit-or-miss proposition.

San Juan County residents received a vivid reminder of that on the evening of July 26, as torrential rain fell in the far-eastern and far-western parts of the county while leaving the Farmington area almost bone dry.

Michael Anand, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Albuquerque, said his agency received several reports of heavy rain from residents in San Juan County. The largest report, he said, came from Navajo Dam, where a caller reported receiving 1.76 inches. At the other end of the county, 1.5 inches of rain was reported at Narbona Pass in the Chuska Mountains near the Arizona border, and 1.4 inches was reported just outside Toadlena, which is west of Newcomb and Sheep Springs.

By contrast, the Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington saw only 0.03 inches of precipitation that day.

The heavy rain led to some localized flooding. San Juan County spokesman Devin Neeley said no one was hurt, but San Juan County Fire & Rescue did have to respond to some instances in which people needed to be escorted from structures because of flooding. There also were several instances of vehicles becoming stuck in rising water, he said, but no drivers had to be rescued from them.

Rain floods the backyard patio of a house off County Road 5500 southwest of Bloomfield on July 26.

The worst flooding occurred at approximately 6 p.m. July 26 on county roads 3100, 3103 and 5290, according to a Facebook post by the fire department, with those roads being described as impassable. Another message posted shortly before 8 p.m. indicated those roads had been reopened, and the flash flooding had subsided. There also were reports of debris impeding traffic on County Road 5500.

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A message posted on the morning of July 27 on the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management Facebook page reported the heavy rainfall had caused a breach in the Bloomfield Irrigation District ditch.

Runoff from a monsoon storm pours down a hillside near County Road 5500 southwest of Bloomfield on July 26.

"There is no water at this time," the message states. "Our ditch riders are out assessing the damage and making a plan of action to clean the ditch out and repair damages. We will keep you all updated as the project moves forward. We request you allow our ditch riders to focus on resolving the issue instead of stopping to answer phone calls. They will do everything possible to get it fixed and the water back on."

The agency also posted a message for those worried about the prospect of additional flooding, reporting that a large pile of sand and sandbags were available for county residents at 326 S. Oliver Drive in Aztec. Residents were asked to take only what they needed and leave the rest for others.

Anand said the weather service received a report of 0.83 inches of rain at a location just northeast of Bloomfield, while reports from the Aztec area ranged from 0.46 inches and 0.63 inches to 0.76 inches.

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Those numbers were welcome news for residents worried about the ongoing drought. But the storm brought little relief to Farmington, where the Four Corners Regional Airport has seen only 2.26 inches of precipitation through July 27 − considerably less than the normal total of 3.89 inches for that date, according to Anand.

But that could change in the days ahead. Anand said additional moisture was expected on the afternoon and in the evening of July 27, and the weather service forecast called for an 80% chance of rain throughout the day on July 28. There was a 70% chance of rain forecast for July 29 and a 60% chance on July 30, according to the forecast.

"The monsoon plume will be located over eastern Arizona and western New Mexico for the next five days," Anand said on July 27.

While some parts of San Juan County received close to 2 inches of rain from a July 26 monsoon storm, the Farmington area received little to nothing.

The monsoon season got off to a historically early start in the Four Corners area, but forecasters had expected that wet weather pattern to dry up by the middle of July, leaving only sporadic chances for more precipitation for the rest of the summer.

Right on schedule, a high-pressure dome did set up over the Four Corners last week, bringing with it clear skies and temperatures reaching 100 degrees in some locations, Anand said. But it has since moved on, making room for additional monsoon rain.

"Now that high has moved off to the east and the monsoon flow has returned," he said. "That's what it's looking like for most of the next three days and even into next week. Chances for additional moisture are good in western New Mexico."

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.