“Ditches are deadly, stay away.” This phrase has been drilled into every New Mexican child’s head from the time they could understand words. Tales of La Llorona haunted our dreams and local flood authorities made sure to terrify us with horror stories of people being swept away in flash floods. Flash flooding has always been a big problem in New Mexico, but in the face of climate change, it can only get worse.
In this graph we can see how the time of day effects when most flash floods are to occur. Other than basic trends, flash floods can be unpredictable. In the past year or so, Albuquerque has endured massive afternoon thunderstorms that ascend after long periods of drought. Most notably, the flooding in the summer of 2013. Albuquerque residents were in shock as cars were swept away and houses flooded. How could this be happening in the desert?
The answer is climate change. Climate change brings dramatic shifts in the weather. For New Mexicans, we can expect more violent thunder storms as well as more severe droughts. Because the storms will be more sporadic, this means that flash floods are more likely to occur. When dry soil has not been beaten down by the rain in a long time, large sheets of rain can turn a sandy hill into a landslide. Water will be able to move rapidly and uncontrollably.
AMAFCA, the organization responsible for flood control in Albuquerque can only do so much. They perform maintenance on arroyos, and launch immense campaigns to dissuade people from playing in ditches. They issue weather announcements and flash flood warnings. They will have their work cut out for them within the next few summers as conditions become more extreme.
This summer especially make sure to stay out of arroyos and ditches, because they will be more deadly than ever.