Evangeline Sheridan, MLA 2019
Organization: Santa Fe Art Institute, Santa Fe, NM
Sponsor: Doebele Community Service Fellowship
“Coming to Santa Fe, I was warned of the wet monsoon season that included potential flashfloods and the promise of surprising rainstorms. Though I was expecting some rain and muddy shoes, I could not have expected the once-in-a-lifetime event that befell Santa Fe. On a Monday night, I let my roommates’ dog in the house before the rain started and he huddled close to me as the wind and thunder became ever more intense. Throughout the night, the wind howled and the rain and hail splattered down with unrelenting power, not to mention the lightning show.
It was only once I got to work that I realized the true power of the storm and the extent of damage. Firefighters and rescue crews were deployed throughout the night, rescuing people from submerged cars and shoring up flood zones with sand bags. Many people had spent the night removing inches of rain from their homes.
The storm had dumped a shocking three inches of rain in one hour. The average hundred-year storm here predicts two inches in one hour. This unprecedented amount of rain is qualified as a 1000-year flood event.
Santa Fe is situated in the high desert, benefiting from the run-off from their nearby mountain range. However, similar to many cities of the southwest and beyond, the city has been suffering from a major drought. Unable to sustain much of a river, the Santa Fe River and surrounding Arroyos are dammed and managed by the city, only being released at specified overflow periods. Water is supplied to residents through extensive pumping.
Essentially, this downpour and the amount of water running through the arroyos was completely unexpected. This rainstorm resulted in every Arroyo and water passageway being filled with fast-flowing water. A weak river bed and failed preparation is evidenced by major bank erosion and clear signs of flooding. Even in the arroyo by my house, the debris can be seen caught in trees high above my head.
Though this rain event was completely unprecedented and thus impossible to prepare for, it is likely to happen again, and sooner than before. As rain events become more intense in shorter periods of time around the world, even a small city like Santa Fe will be suffering from these effects much earlier than expected.”