Residents stunned by flooding in northern NM villages

Posted at: 07/29/2014 5:39 PM
Updated at: 07/29/2014 5:40 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

These are anxious hours for people in the ancient little villages along the Rio Grande north of Espanola. Monday night's heavy rainfall sent a wall of flash flood water and a tidal wave of mud through La Villita and Los Luceros, leaving homeowners stranded and trying to shovel and pump out their property.

Nobody in La Villita would object too much right now if you re-named the place Mudville. It was mud-slinging all day long for dozens of homeowners with yards and driveways buried under 3 to 4 feet of mud. It all started with heavy rain Monday night that sent floodwaters rushing down from the mountains and foothills into arroyos that just couldn't handle the surge.

"I saw a wall fourteen, fifteen foot high coming in, " said Rod Montoya.” By the time I got my children out of the house it was up to my knees."

There was one casualty - Vicente Lucero's dog Shaggy, trapped under the house, buried in mud - nobody home.

“He was all covered in mud," said the grieving but stoic teenager. “He wasn't moving. I had to pull him out from underneath the mud. It wasn't, it wasn't good."

The mud flood shoved parked cars downstream and left them buried up to their axles in Cora Montoya's yard.

“I had lawns," said Cora, who was born in her mother’s house just a stone's throw away. “I had beautiful garden arrangements, lilac bushes, and butterfly trees. I had sidewalks."

Now all she has is mud. Neighbors were hard at work all night and day, helping other neighbors. State and local government authorities say they're on their own because they live on private roads.

“I don't know what to do," said Sadie Vandenbusch. “We are tied with our hands back and we're working as hard as we can to support each of us all. The neighbors right now are trying to help each other."

It's a similar story a couple of miles north in Los Luceros, which you could re-name Lake Luceros right now. Many yards and roads are flooded with water that surged over the banks of the arroyos Monday night. People have gas-powered pumps working and they're busy shovelling dirt into sandbags to get ready for the next round. The fill-'em-yourself sandbags are about all the help they're getting from local government because - you guessed it - they're on private roads.

“I mean we pay county tax," said Judith Trujillo. “We pay state tax. We've been calling, since last night we've been calling everybody, trying to get county officials, city officials, anybody!"

So for now its neighbors helping neighbors in these little old farming villages, where people-power seems puny compared to the forces of mud and water and gravity.