This award is presented to an individual or a group for recognition of unique events or extraordinary accomplishments, which significantly contributed to operational meteorology. This year, the award recognizes the entire staff at the Midland/Odessa WFO for an exceptional series of outlooks, watches and warnings issued before and during a major West Texas rainfall and flash flooding event in April 2004. Of particular note was the close working relationship between the staff, county and state officials that led to the closure of an Interstate 20 highway bridge before it collapsed under the pressure of floodwaters racing through the Pecos River’s Salt Draw tributary.
A powerful upper level storm system passed through the southwest U.S. and western Texas from April 3-6, 2004, resulting in multiple waves of strong to severe thunderstorms and heavy rainfall over west Texas and southeast New Mexico. The heavy rainfall led to significant flash flooding in Reeves County in southwest TX, Eddy County in extreme southeast NM, and moderate river flooding in Kerr County, in west-central TX. The flooding in southeast New Mexico led to a presidential disaster declaration by the Governor of New Mexico.
Widespread rainfall totals of two to three inches, with isolated totals between five and seven inches were common from southeast New Mexico and West Texas eastward through parts of south-central Texas. This resulted in the following major public impacts:
1. A dike broke near the community of Toyah, Texas, around 2:00 am CST Sunday, April 4, 2004. Forty of Toyah's 100 residents were evacuated when 3-4 feet of water entered their homes. One house was destroyed. Fifty homes suffered major damage.
2. Several persons became isolated by flood waters around 2:00 am MST Sunday, April 4, 2004, in Eddy County, New Mexico, and were airlifted to safety by Black Hawk helicopters from Fort Bliss around 7:30 am MST.
3. Flood waters rushed out of the Davis Mountains through Salt Draw towards the Pecos River resulting in the collapse of an Interstate-20 bridge ten miles west of Pecos, Texas, on Sunday, April 4th at around 6:00pm CST. Texas Department of Transportation officials estimate this section of Interstate 20 will be closed for at least thirty days. Damage is estimated to be $2.5 million.
4. Moderate river flooding occurred on the Guadalupe River at Hunt, TX causing road closures. Law enforcement officials reported two high water rescues due to flash flooding at a low water crossing on Highway 39 near Hunt, TX.
Additional information on this weather event can be found here.