Total Estimates From New Mexico Floods May Take Weeks

September 21, 2013

It could be a while before the exact amount of damage from recent heavy rain and flooding in New Mexico will be known, officials said.

Counties are submitting preliminary flood damage estimates to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as federal officials work to tally their own assessment – a process that may take weeks.

“We’ve seen extensive damage across the state to bridges, roads, other infrastructure that cities and counties rely on,” said Estevan Lujan, spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

But just how much the counties will get in aid from last week’s severe weather is not clear.

“Whether or not the county will receive any portion of its claim from FEMA or the state is yet to be determined,” said Julie Habiger, a spokeswoman for Los Alamos County, a county that saw extensive flood damage. “There were many counties in the state with serious damage to infrastructure and that will likely impact funding levels.”

Gov. Susana Martinez declared a state of emergency last week, freeing up $750,000 for infrastructure repairs. But local officials say that money will quickly be used and won’t be enough to cover all the damage.

In Los Alamos County, for example, officials put the initial flood damage cost at more than $5 million. Habiger told the Los Alamos Monitor that figure was a rough estimate but the northern New Mexico county qualifies for FEMA and state assistance.

Habiger said if FEMA and the state reject the claims, the county will have to explore other options.

The Cibola County Commission also is applying for emergency funding after flood waters hit Bluewater, Milan and Grants.

“But it may be a week before we can get all the numbers together,” the county’s emergency management chief Tony Boyd told the Gallup Independent. “We’ll be figuring out our costs for equipment, man hours, materials, plus everything that’s required to respond to an emergency event like this.”

Meanwhile, state officials Thursday kept eyes on full rivers and creeks amid isolated thunderstorms that could spark even more flooding for weather-weary resident working to clean up debris and mud.

The Chama River’s bank swelled Wednesday sending floodwaters in Rio Arriba County, just north of Espanola. The flooding forced residents of Chili, N.M., to use canoes and rafts to retrieve their possessions.

Authorities also continued the search in the Gila National Forest for an Arizona man who was reported missing after he was evacuated Saturday from the Silver Creek Inn in Mogollon and did not return to collect his belongings.

Police said Howard Bassett, 83, drove off in a Chevy Colorado with Arizona license plates.

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