Insult to injury: Thunderstorm floods Ruidoso fire area

At least one person was killed this week by wildfires that have been tearing across Lincoln County, New Mexico, the Mescalero Apache Reservation and the village of Ruidoso. To make matters worse, a slow-moving thunderstorm dropped massive amounts of rain in the mountains north of Ruidoso on Wednesday afternoon, causing deep water and mudflows across the area.

The Rio Chama near Chamita rose almost 4 feet in an hour. The National Weather Service office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, issued a flash flood emergency, saying water rescues were performed in Ruidoso. A rain gauge in the area reported 1.63 inches of rain in two hours. Videos showed RVs underwater at River Ranch RV resort, east of Ruidoso Downs.

The storms also caused a massive duststorm to propagate west across New Mexico and Mexico, causing at least one vehicle pileup and injuring 18 people.

Because of the fires, the flooding was worse than it would have otherwise been. Wildfires can radically change landscapes-areas once abundant with trees and bushes can be reduced to ashes and dry soil. The change leaves a noticeable mark on the land and is often called a burn scar. In communities ravaged by fire, the lack of trees and plants can become a significant issue when heavy rain returns to an area where a wildfire once burned.

In another nearby storm, cars and trucks were stranded in deep water and hail on State Road 42 near Willard on Wednesday evening.

Some of Tropical Rainstorm Alberto's moisture continues to stream northward into New Mexico today, and there will likely again be some showers and thunderstorms this afternoon and this evening and again during the day tomorrow, AccuWeather meteorologists say.

AccuWeather Regional Expert John Feerick explained, "Storms that do develop should be moving a bit faster than the storms that were around yesterday, hopefully limiting the flood threat some, but can still produce a lot of rain in a short period of time and exacerbate flooding issues in the region. As we head into the weekend, a ridge of high pressure is expected to build eastward over the Four Corners, meaning that storms should be few and far between for Saturday and Sunday."