Richard Rees, 14, of Clovis walks on 14th Street past the lake at Chavez Park Tuesday afternoon. The level of the lake had risen within a couple feet of the road by late afternoon. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor
Sammy Cordova said he pushed at least 20 cars out of a flooded intersection at Grand Avenue and Hull Street on Monday morning.
Later in the evening, he said he drove around town in his 1995 Ford F-250 truck to pick up family members whose cars were too low to make it through what he described as the “rivers” of Clovis.
“I’m 33 and I’ve never seen it this bad,” Cordova said Tuesday evening while driving a family member home from work south of town shortly before 9 p.m. “I’m only doing between 5 and 10 miles an hour because I can’t even see the road. You end up hitting the medians. The water is gushing everywhere.”
A steady, chilly rain lingered over eastern New Mexico for much of Tuesday, prompting officials to close portions of at least three Clovis streets and four major highways. A flood watch for flash flooding remained in effect from Tuesday afternoon to this morning.
By 8:15 p.m., areas in eastern New Mexico received between 1.7 and 2.5 inches of rain, according to unofficial reports, and that didn’t take into account a late-night trouncing that didn’t slow until about 10 p.m.
A tornado watch was in effect for Roosevelt, Quay, Guadalupe, Curry and De Baca counties until 6 p.m.
“All the ingredients (were) there” for tornadoes, said Charlie Liles, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Albuquerque office.
“A lot of moisture, a lot of energy, a lot of turning of the winds at height — it’s a pretty significant looking situation,” he said.
Storm activity will linger into the weekend over the east as the storm system slows down, Liles said. Continued flooding is a possibility over the next few days, he said.
Due to flooding, the state Transportation Department closed N.M. 20 between Fort Sumner and the highway’s
intersection with U.S. 285; N.M. 267 between Melrose and Portales; N.M. 294 south of Taiban; and N.M. 252 north of Taiban to House for much of the day.
Clovis Police Chief Bill Carey said portions of Llano Estacado Boulevard, Grand Avenue and Schepps Boulevard were closed due to flooding much of Tuesday morning.
Carey said motorists need to be light on the gas pedal when the roads are this wet.
“When you hit those puddles it sprays everywhere and blacks out everybody’s windshields. It becomes a dangerous situation,” he said.
He said the biggest problem Tuesday morning was stalled cars in some of the more flooded areas.
Water ran curb-deep in Portales after an hour of rain Tuesday morning. Wagon Wheel Cafe server Tiffany Bly said the place was packed with the usual morning crowd and people who stopped to get out of the storm. One local couple had been waiting 15 minutes for a break in the downpour to leave, she said.
“It’s all the way up to the curb. It runs over the curb and into the parking lot when people drive by,” Bly said.
Eastern New Mexico University canceled evening classes at its main campus in Portales and its branch campus in Ruidoso.
The eastern half of New Mexico was much wetter than normal last month, partly due to moisture spawned by Hurricane Javier, according to the weather service.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Unofficial rain totals in inches by 8:15 p.m. for Clovis and surrounding areas except where noted:
• Clovis, 2.3 (10 p.m.)
• Melrose, 2.0
• Cannon Air Force Base, 1.77
• Muleshoe, 1.7
• Farwell, 2.4
• Texico, 2.5