Flooding forces 300 to evacuate N.M. town

Monday, July 28, 2008

RUIDOSO, N.M. -- About 300 people were evacuated from homes, campgrounds and a recreational vehicle park Sunday after flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Dolly.

Meteorologists said more than 6 inches of rain fell in the mountainous area, and flash flood watches were in effect for central and eastern New Mexico.

The Rio Ruidoso went over its banks about midnight, said Tom Schafer, Ruidoso's emergency management coordinator.

"Water's just going everywhere," Schafer said.

State officials estimated more than 60 homes have been damaged.

A police helicopter was sent to rescue people reported to be standing on buildings and vehicles, but no one was found, state Department of Public Safety spokesman Peter Olson said. A dive team was also sent to rescue people from the flooded areas, he said.

Earlier, four people were rescued after being trapped by rising water, but no one was seriously injured, Schafer said.

People evacuated from the Bonito Creek Campground was sent to a nearby church, he said.

Most of the 40 or so people who showed up at the Angus Hill Church of the Nazarene were campers "who just came up for a nice weekend" and were flooded out, said Sue Hutchinson, who operates a first aid clinic at the church.

Several campers said they awakened when their tents began floating down the river, Hutchinson said.

Several bridges and roads in the area were closed, including part of U.S. 70.

Part of the race track at Ruidoso Downs flooded, canceling the entire Sunday race card.

"The race track is a river. I've never seen it like this here," trainer Joel Marr said.

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