The Flood of 2008
Last update 12 December 2009

Sep 21, 2008

We have had so much rain that the lakes in the mountains where our irrigation water is stored are full to overflowing. So much so that it became necessary to open the flood gates to relieve the pressure on the two big dams. Since the irrigation season in over, the water could not be released into the canals, so it had to be diverted into the old dry river bed that runs between us and Torreón. It's been 17 years since that has happened, and the next time before was 40 years ago.

In the past 17 dry years, some people have build squatter houses in the dry river bed -- 130 of them had to be cleared before the water was released.

From here to Torreón there are two low-water crossings (now flooded) and four bridges, one of which is closed for repairs. This is causing terrible traffic problems. The water release and traffic woes are expected to last another month.

There are two low-water crossings between Lerdo and several colonias east of the river. What used to be a 10 minute drive from there to down town Lerdo now takes more than an hour via the remaining bridges from Torreón and awful traffic jams.

But it gets worse. Lerdo's public water system is made up of a several wells in various parts of town. Each well supplies its neighborhood; there is no central pumping station or city-wide network of water mains -- a completely diversified system. The wells for down town and most of old Lerdo are located east of the "dry" river and cross the river under ground. Now the fast moving water has eroded the river bed and broken the water main leaving a large section of Lerdo without water.

The water department jefe says there will be a fix in a few days. Nobody believes him. Other engineers are saying it will be more like six weeks before water flows down town.

My neighborhood is not affected. We are on a different well system. Thank goodness.

Our "dry" river

This is a low-water crossing to colonias east of town.

Under all that water is the low-water crossing which I use when going to my doctor in Torreón.

The bridge on the left is closed for repairs; it is one-way going into Torreón. The other bridge is one-way leaving Torreón


Sep 28

City water has now been restored after an eight-day outage. The new main pipe has been hung over the raging river.

Rain continues to fall in the mountain watershed of the lakes. The lake levels are rising faster than water can be released. When the emergency release began the level in one lake was at 108%. Now is at 111%. The engineers continue to be concerned about the dam's ability to withstand the pressure. If the dam fails, we are all dead.

The engineers would like to increase the rate of release, but they are constrained by the flooding that is happening in the lower river basin. The river passes by Lerdo, Gomez Palacio and Torreón where the river banks are very high, so the water is contained and has not presented any flooding problems. To the north and east of the tri-cities, however, the terrain becomes very flat farm land, and the river has low banks which have been topped and breached in many areas. The resultant flooding has inundated farms and many homes. Hundreds of people have been forced out of their homes. There are large chicken farms which have been flooded. A large industrial waste pool was flooded. The result of the chicken and industrial waste is a very contaminated river. One wag opined that one could become ill just looking at the water.

Today, the engineers announced that they would reduce the rate of release in hopes of reducing the spread of the flood. The outlook is bleak for some time to come.

Oct 6

Sinkholes have begun to open in several areas near the river blocking streets and endangering homes. In the flooding of 1991, one lady was lost when her bedroom collapsed while she slept. Her body was never found.


Oct 11

The river continues to seriously erode the levee on top of which is Ave Rio Nazas. I mourn the loss of this street because it is my short-cut to my doctor and to the airport.

The odd looking curved things in the water are basket ball goals in the outdoor sports complex that lives happily (most of the time) in the "dry" river bed.

UPDATE October 2011

After three years, this street has been completely rebuilt as a four-lane divided boulevard.  Really nice!















Engineers are lowered to inspect the damage. Work has begun to place boulders and concrete blocks to stop the erosion.

This picture shows the potential for massive damage that would happen to Torreón if the levee fails.

Oct 28

Sunset on our flood. The flood gates have been closed, and soon the water will be gone. Then comes the cleanup -- mud, debris, damaged levee and streets, ruined homes and farms, sink holes to be filled. The low-water crossings cannot be reopened until the river bed is completely dry and damage accessed.

This lady, like many others, has refused to leave her home despite the urging of the authorities -- even with a sink hole in the street in front of her house, the buckling sidewalk, and cracks in the floor and walls of her house.

There are now several dozen sink holes near the river. The hydraulic engineers are saying the sink hole problem will get worse as the flood subsides and the water leaves the land under the edges of the river.

Our nightmare is far from over.

Nov 4

10 people were sitting in what was a patio watching television when they felt the floor begin to tremble and heard a loud noise. They quickly ran into the street thus avoiding any injuries when this sinkhole opened. The hole is about 25 feet in diameter and 50 feet deep. The home is about 1/3 mile from the river.

As the engineers warned, other holes have begun to appear.


Nov 7

Thirty families in this neighborhood have now abandoned their homes out of fear. Yesterday a large group went to city hall to demand that the city send experts to assess the danger. There seems to be some bureaucratic snag that has delayed the call to the geologists. The concerned citizens were not given any firm commitments.

Nov 23

A new sinkhole has swallowed another house. Fortunately no one was in the house. There are still neighbors who are refusing to leave their homes in this danger area.

Dec 7, 2008

The state and city have banded together to provide several million pesos to relocate families out of the sinkhole danger area as new holes continue to develop here in Lerdo. Remarkably, no one has been injured by these collapses.

There have been no collapses in Gómez Palacio. But there have been several across the river in Torreón.

It has been determined that most of the sinkholes in Torreón have occurred in the Federal Zone where a number of houses have been built illegally. The government has announced that these sinkholes will not be filled in. A mandatory evacuation order has been issued to the families living in the Federal Zone. Those houses will be bulldozed.  The sink holes in Lerdo have occurred well beyond the Federal Zone,

When the Rio Nazas was a free-flowing river, it cut a very wide and, sometimes, meandering channel. For this reason there has been controversy over the extent of the Federal Zone. The government is now using satellite pictures to make a definitive determination of the Zone.

Another recent collapse in Lerdo. Nobody thinks these will be the last.

Dec 3, 2009

A year later there are big plans afoot. 

An automobile bridge is under construction across the river to serve the villages south of Lerdo.  This will replace the low-water crossing that was destroyed by the flood.  A pedestrian bridge will be built near-by.  This bridge will also carry a new 30" water main to replace the one destroyed by the flood.

There are 20+ families stubbornly living in the sink hole area; about 40 families have moved out.  The city and state are still trying to get the holdouts to move.  The plan is to fill the existing holes, remove all buildings and turn the whole area into a park.  It should be very nice when/if it gets done.  Parks are one thing Lerdo does really well.

Even more ambitious plans have been announced in Torreón and Gómez Palacio..

There is an existing outdoor sports complex in the river bed with facilities for basketball, baseball, soccer and a running track.  This area stretches for about a mile.  The new plan is to increase the area to about 3 miles and add spectator stands, food service facilities, rest rooms, and landscaping, as well as improved pedestrian and vehicle access and parking.

A critical part of this plan is the digging of a channel to contain any future flood waters, so the sports area will not be inundated again.  This channel will hug the Gómez Palacio side of the river bed.

Since the river is the border between Durango and Coahuila, both cities and both states as well as the federal government will be involved.  I'm sure glad it's not my job to coordinate all that.  If/when it gets done it will be a wonderful addition to the recreational venues in Laguna.

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