No floods reported over weekend, but they’re expected soon in the burn zones

Rain and humidity boost containment of the Black Fire and hold it steady for Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon

By: - June 20, 2022 4:26 pm

Clouds gather over the southwest part of the Black Fire. (Public domain photo via the National Wildfire Coordinating Group)

Residents in northern New Mexico are preparing for floods and solidifying evacuation plans, but so far, no floods have been reported.

There is a flood watch for Mora County and San Miguel County around the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire for Tuesday. This doesn’t mean it will flood, but it is possible, according to the National Weather Service.

Safety in the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon burn zone

Emergency alerts are being broadcast on 540 KNMX AM.

Anyone in Mora County or San Miguel County can call the New Mexico Resource Hotline Number if they will need assistance to evacuate: 1-800-432-2080

For immediate evacuation assistance, call 911.

A list of evacuation shelters can be found here.

Information on what to do before, during and after floods can be found here.

Niki Carpenter, spokesperson with Southwest Area Incident Management Team 5 for the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire, said the weather may “dump higher volumes of water in one location through a sustained period of time,” which can cause flooding.

The Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire is still listed as being at 72% containment, as it has been for the last five days, and Carpenter said this is mainly due to a delay in land assessment because of time and risk factors. She said containment numbers will probably go up soon, but a lot of the area has been inaccessible because of the weather.

“They don’t want to increase the number without being 100% positive,” she said.

The area of concern right now is around Pecos River and Hamilton Mesa Trail, where the fire burned into wilderness and larger fuels have a harder time absorbing humidity and rain, she said.

Over the weekend, the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire received anywhere from one-quarter inch of rain to three-quarters of an inch, depending on location, noted meteorologist Andrew Gorelow with the National Weather Service. He said the rain was “slow and steady,” as opposed to the quick bursts of a lot of rain that can cause floods, but that may change in the coming days.

Flood watch ongoing for Black Fire region

No flooding has been reported in southern New Mexico near the Black Fire yet, said Stefan La-Sky, spokesperson with the team in command of the fire. There is a flood watch until Wednesday morning.

He said minimal rain reached the wildfire over the weekend, but humidity overnight helped with containment and allowed firefighters to cease night shifts. He expects increased containment in the coming days.

Jump in containment

The Black Fire hit 68% containment on Monday, June 20, with help from the rain and humidity.

Before moisture came in on Saturday, the Black Fire was at 50% containment.

The amount of water in the atmosphere around the Black Fire could hit record levels later in the week, said Gary Zell, National Weather Service meteorologist.

“The atmosphere is loaded with moisture and any thunderstorm … now that we’ve had some precipitation on the fire, it can definitely cause flash flooding,” Zell said.

Crews fighting the Black Fire have shifted from full suppression efforts to repair with tasks like cleaning up fire lines and picking up brush from limbs and trees, La-Sky said. 

With expectation for increased rain over the next few days, firefighters are cautious of areas that could flash flood, La-Sky said.

The Black Fire area saw a range of precipitation in various areas over the weekend, Zell said, from one-quarter of an inch to an inch and a half in some parts. But a lot of it missed the fire, La-Sky noted.

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Megan Gleason
Megan Gleason

Megan Gleason is a journalist based in Albuquerque. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. Other work has appeared under the New Mexico Press Association as well as in the Independent, Gallup Sun and Silver City Daily Press.