Thunderstorm causes flooding, power outages throughout San Juan County

Hannah Grover The Daily Times
The Daily Times

AZTEC — A heavy thunderstorm that rolled through San Juan County at dusk tonight washed out roads, knocked out electric power and led to evacuation fears.

Areas east of Farmington appeared to be hardest hit by the storm, which featured torrential downpours, as well as abundant thunder and lightning. Rainfall was particularly heavy on Crouch Mesa, where County Road 390 was covered by water and mud.

The San Juan County Office of Emergency Management released an alert tonight warning residents to avoid driving in areas of Flora Vista and Crouch Mesa due to flooded roads and fallen power lines. The alert also cautioned residents not to attempt to cross flooded areas.

The Dino Mart building, located at the intersection of County Road 390 and County Road 350, was flooded, and its gas pumps stopped working. Lisa Pemberton, an employee at the Dino Mart, said trash cans blew away.

"It was like a hurricane came through," she said.

Maryann Alaniz, another employee, said some drivers had their tires pop when they struck debris, and multiple people got stuck in the parking lot.

Authorities opened the McGee Park Convention Center as a shelter for those who might have been driven from their homes by rising water, but as of 9:20 p.m., no residents had arrived there. A shelter was also set up at Bloomfield's First Baptist Church. The American Red Cross's Northwestern New Mexico Chapter was assisting people who may have been displaced due to flooding, according to the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management's Facebook page.

A few RVs were parked in the parking lot of McGee Park near U.S. Highway 64 and had been moved away from the arroyo.

The parking lot had scattered patches of mud a couple of inches deep.

Sandbags that had been positioned around the convention center in preparation for Saturday's 4 Corners MessFest were repurposed to divert water from the building.

The eastern entrance to McGee Park was blocked off as the arroyo flooded the road, knocking down reflectors.

San Juan County Sheriff's Office Lt. David Pixton stood beside the arroyo monitoring the flooding. He pointed out various surges in the water.

"That's the problem with arroyos," he said.

He said that while the arroyo can look safe to drive across at one moment, a surge can make it dangerous.

Power outages were reported in the Flora Vista area. The traffic light at the intersection of County Road 350 and N.M. Highway 516 was out. The traffic light at the intersection of West Chaco Street and N.M. Highway 516 in Aztec was blinking red, and North Oliver Drive was blocked off at the intersection with the highway.

According to the Farmington Electric Utility's Facebook page, crews worked to remove trees that had fallen on lines and to replace poles and transformers in the Flora Vista area.

Water was knee deep near the Aztec Public Library. The library staff had been working late because of a cooking class in the building's courtyard.

Participants in the class watched as the lightning came closer, and then the storm hit, bringing with it a downpour of rain and a brief period of hail. The library courtyard was soon flooded with water, and the lawn in the courtyard resembled a pond.

More rain was expected to move through the area tonight.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.