Traffic closed tonight due to flooding
By Alastair Lee Bitsóí
TWIN LAKES, N.M., Sept. 13, 2013
(Photo by Alastair Lee Bitsoi)
The Friday storm also left pockets of heavy hail, which looked like a winter snowstorm had just passed through the area on the sides of the highway in Twin Lakes Chapter.
Locals like Hubert Curley, of Tohatchi, said the elderly couple was told to stay in their vehicle until emergency first responders came to their rescue.
At about 7 p.m. the two-mile line of commuters were passing through mile marker 16, after tribal and state police and New Mexico of Department of Transportation officials assessed the flooded area for clearance.
The Friday storm also closed a portion of U.S. Highway 491 at mile marker 44 in Naschitti, N.M. This is the same portion of the highway that was closed earlier this summer over the July 4th weekend which forced commuters to take alternative routes to get between 1nterstate 40 in Gallup and the Four Corners region.
It took about a week for NMDOT officials to create a detour route for passage through the area, and the reopening of the road.
According to Delane Baros, spokesman for NMDOT, the road is closed until further notice.
She said water was ravaging across the roadway at mile marker 44, also known to locals as Stinky Water Wash in Naschitti.
"We have flooding at the same arroyo at mile marker 44, where we fixed the detour," Baros told the Navajo Times Friday evening by telephone.
She said NMDOT crews were on their way to the site and didn't know the extent of the damage of the road until the water receded.
"I wouldn't recommend anyone getting on any unpaved roads," Baros added.
At the Coyote Canyon junction, state police set up as detours in an effort to inform commuters the road is closed, and route commuters through Crownpoint and up to Bloomfield on US Highway 371, which runs parallel and about 50-miles easy of Highway 491.
Commuters can also take the route through Window Rock to Navajo, N.M. and through the Narbona Pass in the Chuska Mountains and into Sheep Springs, or vice versa, to get back on 491.
In Mexican Springs Chapter, Tamara George and her family had to sit in their van on the shoulder of highway 491 because of the heavy traffic prevented them from passing through until the road was clear of water.
George also attempted to go on a detour route called Deer Springs Road in the backcountry to reach her home in Mexican Springs but couldn't because a bridge on the dirt road had been washed out.
"We drove back that way and there's a bunch of a debris on the road and people were walking to their homes," she said.
Earlier today, Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint was evacuated after campus was flooded with water, according to Daniel Vandever, the spokesman for the university.
As a result of the recent rains in the region, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez declared a state of flooding emergency for New Mexico.
A state of emergency flooding has also been declared by the Navajo Nation, called Operation Storm Surge 2013.
When this reporter passed through mile marker 16 and asked a tribal police officer about the elderly couple, he said, "We got them out. They're okay."
Stay tuned for more coverage of when US 491 reopens.
Contact Alastair L.Bitsoi at 505-399-1778 or email at email@example.com.