Hurricane Rains Over Silver Fire Burn
Scar Led to Major Damage, Road Closure
By Carlos Padilla
Work along State Highway 152, which connects Sierra and Grant counties and traverses through the Gila National Forest’s Black Range, continues approximately one full month after the roadway reopened.
State Highway 152 was most recently closed in mid-September after flooding washed away parts of the highway.
New Mexico Department of Transportation-District 1 Public Information Officer Bridget Spedalieri told The Herald on Monday, Dec. 1, that the NMDOT lifted the closure for State Highway 152 west of Kingston after crew members repaired sections of the roadway to make it passable and safe for motorists traveling between Sierra County and the Silver City area in Grant County.
Spedalieri stated that the highway was briefly reopened for the weekend on Oct. 30, while minor repair work was conducted and then closed for several days before the NMDOT completely reopened the roadway on Nov. 6.
Minor repair work is visibly ongoing along the shoulders of State Highway 152 in several areas affected by flooding earlier this year.
Prior to this most recent road closure, Highway 152 was closed in the summer of 2013 due to the Silver Fire, which scorched hundreds of square miles, and began burning near Kingston on June 7, 2013. The highway was closed to all traffic between San Lorenzo in Grant County and Hillsboro for weeks.
The scorched grounds of the 138,705-acre Silver Fire burn scar were no match for the heavy precipitation that moved over southern New Mexico and dumped rains associated with Hurricane Odile in September 2014. That storm sent debris from the burn scar onto the roadway. The storm also washed away surface asphalt and portions of Highway 152 completely, and caused trees to fall.
Motorists utilizing State Highway 152 presently can expect to encounter crews from the Department of Transportation working along the shoulders. Motorists are warned of the presence of loose gravel as well as heavy equipment along the highway’s shoulders, as crews tend to minor repair work.
This reporter observed miles of repair work, consisting of rip rap shoring up the sides of Highway 152 and the repair or replacement of several culverts underneath the roadway. Also evident was evidence of high water flows in canyons alongside Highway 152, with debris and trees still stacked several feet high and earth moved through the creek beds adjacent to the roadway.
Spedalieri stated that the repair work will continue to progress as weather permits.
“It’s based upon what Mother Nature brings us,” said Spedalieri. “Our main goal is the safety of the traveling public.”
The work presently taking place is between Wright Canyon to the west and east to the Upper Gallinas Canyon area.
In the meantime, the NMDOT continues to monitor all routes and roadways throughout the state. District 1 is a very large district, covering Socorro County to the north and stretching south to the Texas state line and the international border with Mexico to the south, and from the Arizona border to the west all the way to the White Sands Missile Range in south-central New Mexico.
Spedalieri told The Herald on Monday that the public is encouraged to contact the NMDOT any time a road hazard is present on state highways that require a response or potential closure. Spedalieri stated she can be reached directly at (575) 525-7340 or callers can reach District 1 directly by calling 1-800-444-0745 toll free.