Hurricane Odile, now downgraded to Tropical Storm Odile, is expected to hit N.M. today. New Mexico has already suffered flood damage a week ago and may now see upwards of 7 inches of rain. Tropical Storm Odile has already flooded large parts of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, and caused the evacuation of some 30,000 tourists from the resort area of Cabo San Lucas. The heaviest rain is expected this Thursday, particularly in the southern part of the New Mexico, and the National Weather Service cautions that flooding and mudslides could happen in areas that have been severely hard hit by wildfires.
Flash flood warnings are in effect as of Wednesday in parts of southern and central New Mexico. The area could experience heavy rains as far into the week as Saturday or Sunday. The storms are predicted to bring 1 to 3 inches of rain in these areas, although some locales could experience as much as 4 to 6 inches of rain.
There is concern that the severe weather could cause New Mexico’s Silver and Mescalero lakes to top the spillways and cause flooding in Otero County in southern New Mexico. Some towns and cities, such as Las Cruces, local fire departments are handing out sandbags to local residents to help brace for the expected flooding that is highly likely to occur. Thankfully there has been enough advanced warning to brace for the impact of Tropical Storm Odile.
One small benefit for New Mexico, the monsoon and storm seasons has helped ease New Mexico’s severe drought. As of now only 40% of the state is under a state of severe drought, while last year at this time the figure was 78%. While the rains will be welcome in the farm land and cattle areas under severe drought, other areas could see the the equivalent of several months worth of precipitation with in just 3 days. For low lying areas this could result in severe flooding, mudslides in areas with hills and mountains and of course washed out roadways. The Gila River region and Sacramento Mountains are likely to experience the worst flooding according to the National Weather Service.
While the storm is expected to effect New Mexico well into Friday, high winds are not expected. Flash flood warnings will be in effect in some communities to. Ahead of the tropical storm has been heavy rainfall. While the state has experienced an upsurge in rain ahead of the tropical storm, the worse is yet to come, with 5 inches of rain expected in many areas, although some cities will likely catch a break, Albuquerque for example is expecting only about an inch of rain. The amount of moisture that falls ahead of the storm could be up to 9 inches in isolated parts of Southwestern New Mexico, according to the National Hurricane Center. Property damage will be less in New Mexico than what residents of Baja faced on Sunday and Monday, which left some areas of Baja a total disaster.
New Mexico’s local governments have prepared well for this storm, with shelters set up, sandbags handed out and emergency crews ready to roll. Residents are encouraged to get sandbags at fire stations, which are free of charge, to protect their homes and businesses should flooding occur. New Mexico has plenty of experience with tropical storms, since 1950 the state has seen the remains of at least 57 named storms hit the state.
The tropical storm is expected to hit Arizona first. Luckily the wind speed is decreasing, as of this writing the storms wind speed has been reduced to 45 MPH. The storms winds reach out 140 miles from the storms center at present. The national weather service expects the wind speed to continue to decrease over time, and by the time it reaches New Mexico the winds should no longer be an issue as far as property damage is concerned, however there will be periods of higher wind gusts in isolated pockets of the storm.