Heavy rains spur New Mexico evacuations, close caverns park

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 22, 2014 1:49 PM

By Joseph Kolb

ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) - Heavy rains lingering over southeastern New Mexico from Tropical Storm Odile forced people out of more than 100 houses and kept the popular Carlsbad Caverns National Park closed on Monday.

Bobby St. John, spokesman for the Eddy County Emergency Operations Center, said people were evacuated from 118 homes early Monday because of water spilling over the banks of the Pecos River. He said residents were able to return by mid-morning.

"In the Carlsbad area we have had to put up signs advising that county roads are covered with water and to use caution," said a state police spokesman, Lt. Emmanuel Gutierrez.

Floods at the end of last week forced the closure of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and it remained shut on Monday. A 39-year-old Texas man died on Friday after being swept away by swift flowing waters near Loving, New Mexico, authorities said.

Melissa Huffman of the National Weather Service in Midland, Texas, said there was a 70 percent chance of rain through the end of Monday with another quarter inch of rain possible.

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"The Pecos River rose 22 feet, which is near record levels," she said. "Last night another one to three inches fell."

(Reporting by Joseph Kolb; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Doina Chiacu)