How officials are addressing arroyo safety in Albuquerque

How officials are addressing arroyo safety in Albuquerque

Heavy rain sent water rushing through Albuquerque's arroyos Sunday, which swept up multiple people.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Heavy rain sent water rushing through Albuquerque’s arroyos Sunday, which swept up multiple people.

One person died in the fast-moving water, and first responders rescued two others at different locations.

There’s a team of about a dozen people between the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA) and the city who head to known hot spots when the National Weather Services issues a storm warning. That didn’t happen in enough time this weekend.

Albuquerque Fire Rescue recovered one person from the water in the Tijeras Arroyo during the height of Sunday’s storm. Another person got out with AFR’s help north of that location. Firefighters rescued a third person in the Embudo Arroyo near Wyoming and Indian School.

“Unfortunately, that way that system came in, in a way it sat in one spot, the amount of rain that came down in an isolated area was quite a bit,” said Willie West, real estate manager with AMAFCA.

West said that an automated alert system would be ideal, and they’ve been working on it for about nine years.

“There’s technology out there, it’s just a matter of how we can marry that all together and get it to work in this application,” West said. “Because this is a very, very unique setup. Most other cities and states don’t have this kind of system.”

He also worries about issues like vandalism and the risk of false alarms due to inconsistent New Mexico weather. For now, the Ditch and Water Safety Task Force will continue efforts to educate.

“That program has been very effective,” West said. “In the last eight years, we have not lost anybody under the age of 17.”

Now, the average age is 33. That statistic has them changing their approach.

“It’s a different group of people that we’re trying to reach out, to encourage them not to use these facilities for camping, for walking down inside of,” West said.

AMAFCA couldn’t provide a timeline on when the automated alert system could be up and running, but leaders said they don’t expect funding to be a challenge when the time comes.

2021 was the deadliest year in recent history for swift water deaths, with four deaths in one week in July of that year.