Weekly Weather Roundup – Fires and Floods Engulf a New Mexico Town

The title of this roundup is perhaps one of the more cruel cases of irony seen in this wild year of weather – but it’s exactly the situation out west.

Over the last several days, the small town of Ruidoso, New Mexico has faced an onslaught wind, fire, and rain, unfortunately thus far culminating in 2 fatalities and destroyed structures measuring in the thousands – with fires still ongoing across several areas in the region.

The primary fire, which has come to be known as the South Fork Fire, first began sometime during the late morning hours on June 17, 2024 as a relatively minor fire outside of the town of Ruidoso – it didn’t take long, however, for this fire to explode in growth and, by evening, was visible from space as a swath of smoke covering hundreds of square miles.

The National Weather Service shared a satellite loop of the fires burning around the same time, highlighting the intense updrafts spawning inside the core of the fire as well as the growing danger of fire spread across the region, which can be seen here in a brief loop over the span of a couple hours.

Overnight and into the 18th, the fire had grown to encapsulate a massive 14,000 acres, and, unsurprisingly, a state of emergency was declared by the governor later that day in response to the worsening situation – not only in the proximity of the “South Fork” Fire, but also elsewhere in the region.

To it’s south, another fire (now referred to as the Salt Fire), also grew by several thousand acres, but has thus far been less impactful due to it’s proximity further away from the towns of Ruidoso and surrounding municipalities.

In a strange twist of fate, however, the next day would be host to several near-stationary, long-lived thunderstorms over the exact areas of the burn scars from the days past – at first glance, this may have seemed like a welcome bit of relief, but it quickly became apparent that these thunderstorms were in several ways going to exacerbate the issues already ongoing.

By the late afternoon, due to a combination of extremely intense rainfall rates, stationary storm motions, and already extremely dry lands, a rare FLASH FLOOD EMERGENCY had been issued for many areas also consumed by fire in the hours prior. Doubly so, the intense thunderstorm also produced frequent lightning in the area, further exacerbating fire conditions in the immediate vicinity of the cell.

In the big picture, this rainfall may have helped temporarily halt the spread of the fires, but did not quench them – as of June 21, 2024, both fires discussed above are 0% contained, with some more rainfall possible over the next several days (which again, could help limit the spread, but will also pose a greater risk of flooding).

If you have the desire or ability to do so, consider donating to relief funds for the area – linked below are just a few reputable sources that are equipped to turn donations into action and supplies for those effected in the region.

https://www.communityfoundationofsouthernnewmexico.org

https://www.alamogordo.com

https://www.cfolc.org

author avatar
Bryan Wilson
Meteorologist & Radar Expert at Tennessee Valley Weather... and perpetual nerd.

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