BELEN — Tuesday did not get off to a good start for Monet Lucero.
Up shortly before 5 a.m., as she was getting ready to go to work in Albuquerque, Lucero saw there was water seeping in under the door on the south side of her house.
“I thought, ‘What the heck is that?’ and opened the door. The water just rushed in,” Lucero said.
Thousands of gallons of water from a nearby river drain had swept across the property and was now coming into her home, leaving a foot of standing water in the house and areas up to 2-feet deep on the acre and a half piece of land.
Lucero and her family live on the 700 block of Gabaldon, just north of the Sausal Interior Drain. Her neighbors’ property directly to the west was also flooded.
While the Tiley’s home sits high enough to avoid being flooded, their entire frontyard is covered in water. The only way in and out of their property is through the flooded, muddy, water-logged ditch easement, Laurie Tiley said.
Crews from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District responded to Lucero’s early-morning calls for help, pulling a large pile of debris out of the culvert that runs under the road.
By late morning, they were beginning to pump water off of her property.
“They’re out here, doing their job, but kind of not, you know,” Lucero said. “I’m not really an irrigation person, but I feel like if the culvert hadn’t been clogged, I wouldn’t have ended up with water in my house.”
She said a crew member told her to expect a call from the district’s insurance claims office.
“Right now, we’re just waiting to assess the damage. When I came out there, the water was up over the (bottom) of the door frames on my car, so I haven’t tried to start it,” Lucero said. “I’ve had better days.”
According to information provided by Brittany Bade, the district’s public information officer, weeds had accumulated on a utility crossing spanning the drain on the east side of Gabaldon Road.
“Right now, the MRGCD is investigating if this was a licensed spanned utility crossing and what agency is responsible for it,” Bade said in a written statement.
MRGCD crews carefully cleared the obstruction to resume flow of the drain and stop the overflow.
“It is important to note that high river flow is causing high water levels in Lower Belen Riverside Drain, backing up water into the Sausal Interior Drain, and limiting freeboard — the distance between the water surface elevation and the top of the ditchbank — in the drains. These conditions likely contributed to the overflow,” Bade concluded in her statement.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.