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Floods quench Carlsbad, but more rain needed to escape drought

Rains pounded Carlsbad and Eddy County in recent weeks, leading to widespread flooding, damage to property and death when a man was swept away by floodwaters at a low-water crossing.

But locals hoped amid the destruction, the heavy rainfall could bring relief to dire drought conditions that strangled the region over the past year as wells ran dry and farmers and ranchers reduced herds and acreage.

Records from the National Weather Service showed Carlsbad already received about 4.3 inches of rain this year, with most of it falling in June and July, and Artesia recorded about 7.5 inches.

More:Homeless people in Carlsbad narrowly escape flood, encampment washed away

Although locals hoped the rains could be the region’s escape from drought, State Climatologist Dave Dubois with New Mexico State University said it wasn’t over yet.

The U.S. Drought Monitor showed drought conditions receding from Eddy and Lea counties, as about half of Lea County had no drought conditions as of July 13. 

The southeast corner of Eddy was also free of drought at the time of the update. 

The U.S. Drought Monitor for New Mexico as of July 13, 2021

Eddy was mostly in moderate drought, the second lowest drought class on a scale of five and Lea had abnormally dry, the lowest and severe drought conditions.

More:Eddy County Commission approves flood declaration after damaging rains

Both counties had a small sliver of extreme drought, the fourth-highest drought class, in their northwest corners while Eddy had a small patch of the highest class, exceptional drought, on its western border to Otero County.

The recent recordings were in stark contrast to the previous update of the Drought Monitor on June 22

That report showed both counties almost completely covered by extreme and exceptional drought conditions.

More:Gov. Lujan Grisham signs emergency flood declaration for Eddy County

The U.S. Drought monitor for New Mexico shows widespread drought as of June 22, 2021.

Dubois said the relief came from a strong opening monsoon, a season known for heavy, sporadic downpours during the summer months.

“We’ve gotten a really good start to the monsoon,” he said. “We’ve made up for the deficit in a few areas.”

But regardless of a cluster of high rains, Dubois said the devastating impacts of drought remained for farmers and public lands.

More:Sitting Bull Falls damaged by floods, closed to public

He said it was more beneficial to get half an inch a week of rain over several months than to get all of it within weeks.