Eye of the deluge

City of Clovis employees Val Holguin and Jimmy Salazar work to pump water on Thursday from Seventh and Ash streets in Clovis. The city began pumping water at noon, and expected to pump throughout the night.

By Darrell Todd Maurina and Jack King

A torrential downpour early Thursday morning dumped more than 2 inches of rain on Clovis, causing excessive flooding on city streets that resulted in at least a dozen vehicles being stranded by rising waters that reached two and three feet at some intersections.
The last time the Clovis-Portales area received more than two inches of rainfall in a day was Aug. 20, 2002, when it poured 2.83 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.
Even a Clovis police patrol car become stranded after the storm hit shortly after midnight
Patrolman Robert Denney tried to cross the intersection at Grand and Mitchell while responding to a burglar alarm but his vehicle didn’t make it.
“The water was sucked into the engine through the air intake and blew the engine,” said Denney, who continued to his call on foot and found a ringing alarm had been caused by the weather, not by an intruder.
According to Ramona Frogge, administrator at the Clovis Public Works Department, the city called out four public works crews between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. to barricade flooded streets including Norris, Sycamore, 21st Street, 1st Street, Grand, Prince, Mitchell and 14th.
“It rained so fast the drains couldn’t take care of the runoff,” Frogge said.
Clovis Police Capt. Dan Blair urged residents not to venture out during heavy rain.
“The city over the years has been working on the drainage system but everything still goes into the street,” Blair said. “The way things are, the street is still an extension of the streams.”
Flooding can become more than a nuisance, Blair warned. “We’ve had people drown back in 1986 or 1987, just north of the corner of Thornton and 21st,” Blair said.
Problems weren’t limited to street flooding. Frogge reported that there was excessive flow at the city’s wastewater treatment from water entering city drains, but no incidents at the plant as a result of the water.
County Commission Chairman Tim Ashley said he and County Roads Superintendent Danny Davis toured the county Thursday afternoon and found serious damage at two sites. At County Road G and 7th Street, rain washed the caliche surface away and the road is now closed. On County Rd. A, near the state line and near Texico, the road surface also was washed away. Ashley said other country roads also suffered varying degrees of damage.
Ashley said Billy Johnson, a landowner north of New Mexico Road 523 near the stateline, said rain measured 4 inches in a gauge on his farm.
The storm also cooled temperatures as Clovis set a new record for the lowest maximum temperature, which was 70 on Thursday. The old mark was 74 degrees in 1958, according to the weather service.
While he didn’t like being out in the weather, Denney said he was glad to be able to help fellow citizens.
“You just deal with it, it gets cold, and you ruin a pair of boots,” Denney said. “When there is water like that, just stay home and stay off the roads.”
CNJ senior writer Gary Mitchell contributed to this story.