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State of Emergency Deja Vu

Remember the Spring of 2004:

The storms washed away a portion of at least one county road in Carlsbad and prompted the closure of N.M. 137.

“It’s flooding. It’s hailing. You name it, and we’re getting it,” said Carlsbad resident Kathy Kelly. “It’s been three days now.”

Several roads in the Hobbs area were also closed because of flooding, including N.M. 207 between Hobbs and Eunice and U.S. 62-180 from Hobbs to the New Mexico-Texas line.

In northern New Mexico, crews were making progress restoring electricity to more than 1,000 customers of the Mora-San Miguel Electric Cooperative, Ernesto Gonzales, the co-op’s general manager, said Monday.

The outages began Saturday morning as heavy, wet snow caused electrical lines to sag, break and short out mainly in the Mora Valley south of Las Vegas, Mineral Hill and Gallenas Canyon, he said.

Gonzales said he did not know exactly how many customers had electricity restored, but he hoped to have everyone back on line later Monday.

In Albuquerque, crews were fixing sinkholes that opened up because of the rain. From about midday Friday to midday Saturday, 2.29 inches of rain fell in the Duke City, beating the previous 24-hour record of 2.26 inches set in September 1893, according the National Weather Service.

No? Well, how about the Winter of 2004:

Gov. Bill Richardson declared a state of emergency as a winter storm pummeled the state, leaving roads virtually impassable, closing schools and blanketing one town with 13 inches of snow.

Richardson’s declaration signed late Tuesday freed up about $750,000 in state funds to help cover overtime costs for road crews, police and emergency workers, said Pahl Shipley, a spokesman for the governor.

The worst of the snow and rain was across northern, eastern and central New Mexico. All state employees were sent home two hours early and Los Alamos National Laboratory closed for the day.

Yeah, our Governor and other elected officials are counting on the fact that you forgot about those emergencies. Because, let’s face it, if you remembered, you might be more than a little upset that two years later our state had the very same problem again:

Gov. Bill Richardson has declared a state of disaster for eight counties affected by rain-induced flooding.

The order covers Bernalillo, Harding, Quay, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, San Juan, Sierra and Socorro counties, which were hit by heavy rains from July 1 through 9. The order makes up to $750,000 available to help counties recover costs.

Roads, bridges and other infrastructure were damaged in many areas.

Officials from the state Office of Emergency Management will work with authorities in each county to assess damage and come up with estimates for repairs.

Or, you might be left wondering why after records budget surplus – the kind that allows hundreds of millions of dollars to be spent on trains and spaceports – we’re STILL not better prepared to deal with simple weather emergencies:

Trucker Jessie Pierson, from Wichita, Kansas, was hauling a load of hay to Texas when he wound up stranded for 5 1/2 hours Saturday by closed roads.

“Then we were able to move about 12 miles in one hour, and the roads were closed again,” Pierson said Sunday afternoon. “We couldn’t move again until 11 this morning.”

Pierson said snow plows on roads passing a truck stop in Clines Corner, New Mexico, where he and his girlfriend had sought shelter, “just piled the snow up so none of us could get out.

“The state wouldn’t get out and help anybody and there was no National Guard to be seen anywhere we’ve been,” Pierson said.

“People were getting out and helping each other — we couldn’t count on the government for any help.”

So, has New Mexico government finally learned their lesson? Will they look to ensuring the safety of New Mexicans and visitors to our state before again spending millions on frivolous legacy projects? We’ll see. This legislative session emergency preparation should be the number one priority.