Reports of residents “swimming in the streets” in Albuquerque may be an encouraging sign the drought has fled from New Mexico, but the unusual cloudbursts that dropped more than 5 inches of rain across parts of the city the last several days doesn't mean the entire state fared as well from recent weather developments.
All in all, the latest National Drought Mitigation Center report issued July 29 indicates that drought conditions have improved for large areas of the state but most of New Mexico remains in at least some stage of drought even if that stage was lowered from extreme and severe drought status to moderate or abnormally dry conditions.
Some areas, however, like most of the Albuquerque Metro area and several mountainous areas across the northern half of the state, received drenching downpours Saturday.
Albuquerque, which had experienced heavy rains earlier last week, received up to 4 additional inches of rain in isolated parts of the city Friday night and Saturday, raising the city's yearly rainfall total higher than the rainfall total for all of last year.
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The National Weather Service Albuquerque station reports that record-breaking rain in downtown and other parts of Albuquerque late Friday night caused moderate to severe flooding that trapped motorists in cars, and even provided some residents a chance to play in waist-high water in the streets. Homes and businesses were flooded and clean up crews continued to remove debris as power companies were still dealing with sporadic outages in small pockets around the county on Sunday.
In a two-hour period Friday night, nearly 3 inches of rain fell in northern parts of the city, forcing road closures and washing out a rail line bridge that suspended rail service north to Santa Fe until Sunday afternoon.
While the state's largest city received the brunt of weekend storms, beneficial rain fell sporadically across other parts of the state as well, though NWS officials say a slower, more soaking rain would have been better for the state's agricultural interests.
"A deluge of rain all at once is not great," National Weather Service meteorologist Amanda Martin reported, saying at least the state was getting needed moisture. “It helps out with the drought and it making a dent in (overall) drought conditions."
Heavy hourly rainfall amounts broke records in a number of places across the city, including the airport. Most areas in the Metro area received around 2 inches of rain overnight Friday.
Across the state, rain showers were sporadic and failed to drop the heavy downpours experienced in Albuquerque. Mountainous areas received substantial rains however, up to 2 inches in spots. The Rio Grande Middle Basin area, where the state's richest agricultural operations are located, received some rain, but mostly less than an inch overall.
In southeastern New Mexico, Alamogordo received between 1.5 to 2 inches of rain over the last seven days, Artesia nearly 1.5 inches and Carlsbad as much as two inches in isolated spots with about an inch falling in wider areas over the last seven days. Roswell received nearly 3 inches of rain total in July and early August. In the south central mountains, Ruidoso has received nearly 3.5 inches of rain over the last week while Cloudcroft racked up 2.5 inches of rain.
Even in dry western New Mexico, some communities and along the Gila River Basin experienced up to 2 inches of rainfall over the same period.
Forecasters say conditions are ripe for continued rain events in the days ahead, but nothing as significant as the systems that caused the deluge in Albuquerque over the weekend.
Researchers at the National Drought Mitigation Center say drought conditions have significantly improved from last year but warn most areas across New Mexico and the wider Western half of the nation remain dry and in need of more rainfall before drought conditions improve significantly.