ALBUQUERQUE – Gov. Susana Martinez declared a statewide emergency Wednesday as New Mexico braced for possible flooding and mudslides as remnants from Tropical Storm Odile moved in.
The National Weather Service said severe weather could dump as much as 8 inches of rain in the southern part of the state before the storm system weakens Friday.
Martinez, in her executive order, cited the hundreds of square miles of mountainsides burned by wildfires in recent years. She said heavy rainfall over these bare areas could result in serious damage.
“We’re taking proactive measures to be ready for this storm, including pre-positioning key National Guard personnel and equipment. I encourage all New Mexicans to be cautious and safe throughout this storm,” Martinez said.
With the emergency declaration, $750,000 in state funds will be available to help communities respond to and recover from any storm damage.
Large storm clusters hung over New Mexico on Wednesday, generally moving from the southwest toward the northeast. So far, Socorro and Catron counties have seen around 3 inches of rain in two days, officials said.
Southern New Mexico could receive up to 5 inches of rain through the weekend, with up to 8 inches falling in the southwestern and south-central mountain regions. The most severe weather is expected today.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said parts of Arizona and New Mexico could receive 6 to 9 inches of rain and possible flash flooding.
“Problems are going to happen when we have these embedded thunderstorms,” meteorologist Todd Shoemake said.
Shoemake said those isolated storms, which are part of the larger system, can dump rain very quickly on already saturated soil and trigger flooding.
Officials expect the Gila and San Francisco rivers to get close to flood levels.
The remnants of Odile, which had been downgraded from a Category 3 hurricane to a tropical storm, reached Arizona on Wednesday. Storms were expected to strike hardest in the Tucson area before moving into New Mexico.
In Otero and Doña Ana counties, officials made sandbags available for residents.
New Mexico Department of Transportation officials also warned drivers to avoid low-lying frontage roads adjacent to Interstate 10 in southern New Mexico because of flooding concerns.
Travel on Interstate 25 also could be hazardous with heavy rain and low visibility.
State officials said an emergency operations center has been activated and would be monitoring conditions around the state through the rest of the week.