Gila National Forest roads washed out by monsoon rains, visitors stranded
SILVER CITY, N.M. – Now that monsoon season has ended, New Mexico is left with some damage that could take years to fix.
“Monsoon season 2022, we received anywhere from 150 to almost 400% of our normal monsoonal moisture from June to September of 2022,” said Maribeth Pecotte, public affairs specialist at the Gila National Forest.
The Gila National Forest got up to six times the normal amount of rain. Pecotte says forest roads have been severely washed out by all the rain.
“We’ve had reports of people stuck out in the forest for multiple days at a time. I heard about one person who was stuck out there for nine days before a neighbor came by and found them,” said Pecotte.
She says there are about 200 miles of damaged roads to inspect and repair.
Crews have been able to make temporary fixes, but the constant rain is forcing crews to take a rain check on further work.
“But every time the rain comes, it just washes out all the new road surface that we’ve put down, and we have to go back out and redo work that’s been done before already,” Pecotte said.
Pecotte says there have been no injuries that she knows of but says people should be very careful driving.
“It’s a really good idea to be prepared for an overnight stay, even if you’re not expecting it. So bring along extra food and water and blankets, something to keep warm and dry, if you do end up getting stuck out there overnight,” she said.
Pecotte also says you should always tell someone where you’re going in case you do get stuck.
Now that the rain has let up crews can continue repairs, but it’s a long road to recovery.
“Realistically, it’s going to be probably five years that we’re going to be dealing with roads being damaged by storms within that Black Fire area, and some of those repairs are going to be long-term fixes, like rerouting a road,” said Pecotte.