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Tue September 17, 2013
In Depth: Catron County Flood Damage Update
In response to flooding brought on by a week of intense rains, officials are in the process of cleaning up and re-establishing basic services to residents along several drainages in and around the communities of Glenwood (Whitewater Creek), Mogollon ( Silver Creek) and Alma (Mineral Creek). While most of the county received over 8 inches of rain in the last 7 days, the area around Glenwood was the most effected by the devastating floods, where waters breached levees, flooded homes and businesses and destroyed a portion of NM 159 into the mountain community of Mogollon, leaving 13 residents stranded.
Crews are working with heavy equipment to re-establish the main road up Mineral Creek where multiple homes are located. Twenty-two residents are still unable to get out of the upper part of the canyon. Work is progressing to pioneer a new road in areas where Mineral Creek jumped its banks so that food and water can be taken to those residents if they are in need. This work should be done within 48 hours. After that, as resources permit, work will be started to restore the road to the original condition, which may take several weeks. One home was directly affected by the flood waters, multiple homes received minor flood damage, an RV park and a mobile home park were damaged and several others close to the new channel are in immediate threat. Power and phone lines that were damaged have been restored. One Catron County bulldozer is on scene with one more due to arrive this afternoon.
Whitewater Creek crested the US Hwy 180 bridge on Sunday night and flooded several low-lying areas adjacent to the creek. Currently, there is less than 3 feet of freeboard under the bridge and officials are working with NM DOT to try to clean the channel in the event of additional rain fall in upper Whitewater Creek, which was devastated by the 2012 Whitewater Baldy Fire. Currently there is one business and 3 homes that were directly impacted by the flood waters, along with several outbuildings. The NM Game and Fish Hatchery is threatened and the Game and Fish Department is mobilizing equipment to build up the dike separating Whitewater Creek from the hatchery.
Mogollon (Silver Creek)
From pictures received by sources inside the community, Mogollon has received the most damage and flood effects associated with the rains. NM Hwy 159 has been totally destroyed from where it enters Deadwood Canyon , southwest of Mogollon, east to where it climbs out of Silver Creek about 3 miles upstream of the town site. Based on best available information, there are still 13 residents still in Mogollon. Power and phones are still working and officials are working with local crews from the Glenwood Ranger Station/Gila National Forest in packing in food and water. Heavy equipment from NMDOT is working east on Hwy 159 to pioneer a 4 wheel drive road down Deadwood Canyon and the south fork of Silver Creek into Mogollon. Work is slow because there are spots on NM 159 (a single lane, paved highway) that may have been damaged and there are reports of sink holes associated with washed out culverts. Best available estimate is that the initial ATV/OHV/4 wheel drive road access will be established by late tomorrow if things go according to plan. There are reports of one person missing from Mogollon. The last time anyone heard from him was when he left Mogollon on Sunday night and headed towards Glenwood. Crews are searching in the area in case he did not make it out.
There has been a media report that the NM National Guard has been called in to supply Mogollon with food and water. Due to the narrow, steep and extreme terrain around Mogollon, there are not landing zones where a National Guard Helicopter can land. As a result of this, supplies are being taken in on foot to the citizens of Mogollon.
Due to the unprecedented damage to NM 159, it may be several months before it is open for public travel.
Representatives of NM Dept. of Homeland Security, Catron County, NM State Forestry, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, NM State Police, NM DOT and the US Forest Service have set up an Incident Command Post at the Blue Front Café in Glenwood. A Type 3 Incident Management Team from the City of Santa Fe has been ordered to assist Catron County with recovery and re-construction. Heavy equipment from Catron County and NM DOT are either on scene or en-route to start clearing roads, bridges, repairing dikes, etc. The Red Cross has set up a shelter at the Glenwood Elementary School.