After major rainstorms flooded parts of Socorro County, Hector Juarez spent Thursday afternoon clearing rocks off of Park Street.
Juarez said that he is a biker and was worried about him and other bikers getting knocked down due to debris on the roads.
“For the same reason that I might hurt myself, somebody else might,” he said. “I figured that I would just come out here and do it. The city might take a little longer to do it because they have a lot of other important things to do. I thought I would help them out.”
Before the City of Socorro put in the curb and gutter in front of his house, Juarez said he would get the brunt of it into his yard. He said that it’s much better now.
Besides clearing the rocks off of the road, he had to fill a lot of spots in his yard and the rain took most of the topsoil off.
Glenice Simmons and William Brown also had trouble with their yard as a person’s vehicle got stuck between their water meter and fence.
“I don’t know how deep he (was) spinning,” Simmons said. “I don’t know if he’s done any damage.”
Simmons said that city police and county police had to be called to help get the vehicle unstuck. She said how the driver of the vehicle had to be pulled out backwards and put his car in reverse instead of neutral causing water to be “spinning everywhere.”
Besides the vehicle being stuck, Simmons said they had to shovel the gravel that got washed in front of their gate as if the water or gravel gets too deep, they are unable to get out.
According to Brown, their neighbor is unable to get out of his driveway because the water is too deep for his low truck.
“They haven’t even blocked the street off, in either way, in any way,” he said. “Water is still up there. People are still going down there. They can’t see under the water. They don’t know what is under there. It could be a sinkhole.”
Simmons and Brown both said that they have called the city to have it pumped and that the city had started pumping when the rain first started.
“Then they quit for some reason,” Simmons said. “Now, I can’t get them to come back. They told me I’m on a list. Then they told me they would do a work order.”
Lloyd Martinez, Utilities Director for the City of Socorro, said his crews were working all weekend to help those in need.
“We had pumps running all weekend,” he said. “There are still pumps out there. We were helping some people in their backyards. We can’t help everyone at one time and we got so many calls that some people get mad at us. There is only so much we can do.”
City of Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker said the city crews are working on getting to everyone that needs help and that it is on a first come, first serve basis.
“We don’t really have time to assess how bad you are flooding and we only have five pumps,” he said. “It’s first come first serve because that’s who alerted us. There are a lot of times where the rain will miss part of the town. We can’t tell the severity. That’s the only way we can do it.”
The city is planning on buying more pumps, which cost $25,000 each, so they can help more residents during floods and rainstorms.
To help with the amount of rain that can come down during monsoon season, Martinez said the city has put in multiple ponds with pumps that drain to various culverts.
According to Martinez, there was a pump on 5th Street and ponds are located on Franklin Street, Ake Street, Fairgrounds Road, behind Clark Field, one by the DAV and a few others.
“All of our ponds filled up,” he said. “This rain came down so fast and it came the night before and the second night was way worse… When the rain is coming down this fast, you can’t do anything. It’s going to flood. The only thing you can do afterwards is start draining because when all the ditches fill up, the water can’t go anywhere.”
The first night it rained, Bhasker, Martinez, Interim Fire Chief Lawrence Baca, former Fire Chief Joe Gonzales and other city officials were inspecting areas that were flooded until 1:30 a.m.
Bhasker said there are certain parts of the city that almost always flood and those areas include Willow Street, 6th Street, Santa Fe Lane and others.
Santa Fe Lane is one area that floods because it runs near the railroad tracks and the drainage ditch. Bhasker said other areas flood because people have built their houses beneath the floodplain so the water runs into people’s yards.
During the most recent rain storms, Bhasker said there were multiple calls from Ake Street.
“The other twist, which I will take the blame for it, is we have every street in town torn up, including Bullock,” he said. “It really became a holding pond. From Ake Street to El Camino Real, it was basically a holding pond and then it got too full and it started coming over.”
For Martinez, one of his biggest concerns is the wastewater plant because if the waterlines washout or become contaminated there is no longer water for people’s houses and it dilutes the water which causes there not to be enough food for the bugs.
The City of Socorro uses a SBR wastewater plant which requires a balance of various bugs to function properly.
Prior to the storm arriving, Bhasker said he alerted the fire department, sewer department, sewer department and the street department. He said Martinez and his department were making sure that the ponds were ready and the pumps were on.
The fire department was making sandbags for those who needed them to protect their property from flooding. Bhasker said people can only receive 10 sandbags due to the anti-donation clause.
The City of Socorro received multiple complaints about the limited number of sandbags they could have. Bhasker said it is enough where they can put one in front of each door and line the garage to add extra stabilization prevent water from leaking in.
To prepare, city workers also cleared out the storm inlets to help the water drain quickly once the rain stopped coming down.
Outside of the city, Tony Black who lives 25 miles north of city limits said they had issues with the tunnel that is under the interstate.
Black said that anytime there is more than an inch of rain there is flooding in the tunnel and roughly six neighbors who are impacted.
Once the rain stopped, Black said it drained in roughly 20 minutes but the tunnel is now filled with sand.
“There is probably eight inches of sand in the tunnel,” he said. “The neighbors probably have five inches of standing water in their fields and in their properties. There are at least four properties like that.”
To help with the flooding, Black said Socorro County has brought topsoil and millings to help make the road firmer.
“The problem is, when a big rain like this comes, much of the work they have done just gets taken away or zeroed out because they have very little impact into the way it flows through the tunnel and out onto the pavement and all the county work they have done,” he said.
Black said another part of the problem is that they backup to the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy but that part of the conservancy ditch is no longer maintained.
“Over the years, that has just gotten progressively worse,” he said. “If there are areas in it that break, bit just continue to flow from the plateau on down and that’s what’s caused some of the problems where you see sand all across the interstate because the culverts have gotten so full that there is no place for the water and the sand to go so it ends up on top of the interstate.”
For a short-term fix, Black said that the Department of Transportation would come and clean up the sand.
“It’s a really interesting little area because the county owns the road, but the state owns the tunnel,” he said. “The county will not clean the tunnel and the state will not clean the road. It’s really interesting.”