Body found in Ruidoso floods

The Associated Press

RUIDOSO — The body of a 20-year-old apparently swept away by flooding in Ruidoso was found Monday.

The man’s brother reported him missing Sunday. The brother told authorities the man had been swept away by high water in the upper canyon section of Ruidoso, said Darlene Hart, a spokeswoman for the state of New Mexico.

His name was not released.

Earlier, two people had been reported swept away after apparently losing their footing near the flood-swollen Rio Ruidoso. Hart said Monday there were “four or five” unconfirmed reports of missing people, but authorities have no definitive information.

She said an unknown number of people remained stranded because of washed out roads and bridges, but that some have told authorities they don’t want to leave.

An estimated 350 to 500 houses, campers, mobile homes and structures were damaged in the flooding that hit the Ruidoso area early Sunday, authorities said.

Some 350 people evacuated from homes and up to 500 vacationers stranded away from their cabins, campsites or recreational vehicles in the flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Dolly were unable to return Monday.

The river, a muddy chocolate milk color with white caps, continued to run high Monday.

Tom Schafer, Ruidoso’s emergency management coordinator, said 200 other residents in the area were not flooded but were cut off by high water and closed bridges.

Nine bridges were under water and secondary roads in the area remained closed, although the main highway, U.S. 70, reopened after part of it was shut down Sunday.

Up to 9 inches of rain has fallen in the mountainous resort area since Friday, the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said. Flash flood watches were in effect across much of eastern New Mexico.

Water still flowed over roads in low-lying areas, and one of the main canyon roads in the center of Ruidoso, Paradise Canyon Road, was partially washed away. Mud and debris covered roads and the shoulders. A metal culvert sat on the side of one road, and two mobile homes loosened from their moorings sat askew, covered in mud.

The water crested at an estimated 11 feet above normal where the Rio Ruidoso and Carrizo Creek meet, washing away its banks and a park bench at the Ruidoso Chamber of Commerce.

Sandi Aguilar, the chamber’s executive director, said the building didn’t suffer any damage but that the water came up to its foundation and chamber officials were checking damage to the building’s deck.

A bridge washed out on a nearby side street, with half the bridge remaining on its foundation and the rest in the river. A parallel wooden pedestrian bridge remained standing, but police cordoned it off with yellow tape.

Officials are concerned that people passing by to take pictures are getting too close to the river’s saturated banks, and that those banks could give way.

The business district of Ruidoso was largely untouched, with most of the damaged bridges and roads lying n residential areas.

Schafer said there were 25 water rescues Sunday, mostly from vehicles but a few from homes.

“A lot of people were trying to get through in deep water areas and they got stuck,” he said.

National Guard Black Hawk helicopters rescued about two dozen campers stranded by high water, Schafer said. But he said some campers “had to hunker down last night” to await rescue Monday.

About 50 people trapped by the river were rescued by Ruidoso firefighters who put a ladder across the flood and walked people across it to the other side, Schafer said.

The sun broke through Monday morning, but Schafer said isolated thunderstorms were forecast throughout the week.

In Dona Ana County in far southern New Mexico, rains that sent water over the banks of irrigation ditches flooded seven homes and washed out at least one road north of Las Cruces.