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    Northern NM still recovering from damaging December storm


    January 22, 2022 - Andy Stiny / Journal Staff Writer

     

      SANTA FE – Homes were left without power and hundreds of downed trees still pose a serious wildfire threat in the upper Red River Valley in the aftermath of a powerful December wind storm, government officials in Taos County were told Thursday.

      As of Saturday, only 10 to 15 homes will be without power, and that's because power meter bases were damaged in the storm, said Luis Reyes, chief executive officer for Kit Carson Electric Cooperative in a phone interview late Friday. Some of those customers own second homes in the area and are being contacted, Reyes said.

      A cellphone tower should also have power restored Saturday after technicians reach a mountaintop location by snowmobile, he said.

      The Thursday report was issued via a Zoom meeting of the Intergovernmental Council of the Enchanted Circle. Council representatives include Taos County, and municipalities within Taos and Colfax counties.

      The council was meeting for an After Action Review of the Dec. 15 snow squall that damaged homes in Taos County, caused power outages around northern New Mexico and damage at Santa Fe Regional Airport.

      Deep snow and downed trees in the area have made road access difficult for crews restoring power on private roads, but supply chain issues are also a factor, Reyes said during the meeting.

      Crews were dealing with big downed trees and "we still have poles that are buried," Reyes said.

      "Something has to be done about the supply chain," he said. "Transformers are hard to find, poles are hard to find."

      If ordered now, it would take 116 weeks to receive a transformer, something that took six to eight weeks pre-pandemic, Reyes said.

      "I was surprised, too," Reyes said Friday about the lengthy delivery time. Eastern storms are also draining equipment inventory, he said.

      Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed an executive order approving Taos County's request for a disaster declaration following the storm. The order authorizes up to $750,000 in emergency funds to be made available to the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for storm relief.

      There was no preplan for a snow squall with 90 mph winds, said Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe. The storm "was handled the best it could be," he said.

      Hogrefe said there was a lack of mobile repeaters for radio communication "for first responders to talk to each other."

      Reyes warned of the need to "harden" the electric grid with steel poles or steel sheets on conductors to prevent sparks.

      "My concern is the forest fires," Reyes said. "We need an emergency plan for this summer. There's just a lot of fuel up there."

      There was also discussion of accessing private roads for cleanup and how to dispose of numerous tree stumps left from the storm.

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