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Ruptured canal contributing to flooding

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By Martin Salazar

A portion of the earthen canal that carries floodwaters to Storrie Lake ruptured either late Thursday or early Friday, and that has contributed to the flooding that has taken place, Mayor Alfonso Ortiz said at a news conference Friday afternoon.

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The emergency operations center has been activated, and a hotline has been established to answer calls from the public.

That number is 454-3700.

Ortiz said the rupture occurred east of Bradner Dam near the village of Los Vigiles.

He said an engineer from Albuquerque was on his way here to help the Storrie Project Water Users Association come up with a plan to fix the canal as quickly as possible in order to take some pressure off the river. But he said the repair could end up taking days, if not longer. The state Department of Transportation was trucking jersey barriers to the site for possible use.

Rob Larrañaga of the Storrie Project Water Users Association said the problem was discovered at about 7:30 a.m. Friday.

Ortiz said that if the canal were working as designed, it could have alleviated the pressure on the river by 1,100 cubic feet per second.

That likely wouldn't have been enough to have eliminated the flooding, San Miguel County Commission Chairman Nicolas Leger told the Optic.

Flooding along the Gallinas River wreaked havoc throughout the city and county Friday, worrying officials that major bridges could give way.

Twoe of the four major bridges in Las Vegas — Bridge Street Bridge and Independence Street Bridge — were shut down at some point on Friday due to fear that they might give out, but all but the Bridge Street Bridge had been reopened as of about 3 p.m.

"It is widespread and throughout the county," Leger said of the flooding during the news conference. "We're telling people to stay away from water courses. If you're safe where you're at, stay there. if you're home, and you're safe, stay there."

"If you approach any standing body of water, do not cross it," Leger added.

Ortiz and Leger described the more than 4 inches of rain that has fallen over the past four days as a "100 year flood" event.  

So far, no deaths or injuries have been reported, although a truck was reportedly washed away, officials said.

Homes along the Gallinas have also been flooded. Leger said there has likely been "tremendous" damage to both public and private property, but it's too early to estimate the amount of damage.

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque told the Optic on Friday afternoon that the city of Las Vegas had received more than 4 inches of rain in the last four days with higher elevations receiving 5 to 7 inches during the last period.

Meteorologist Brian Guyer added that more rain is expected through Saturday, perhaps as much as 1 to 2 inches.

There were also reports of flooding in the Pecos area and in Mora County.

The Mora County Commission held an emergency meeting because of the flooding there and voted to declare a state of emergency.