The Flood of 1935

black and white photograph of flooded Picacho Ave with Camp Broadway

Looking west on Picacho Avenue, Camp Broadway on the right. August 30, 1935. Ms0480 Horton’s/Ballard’s Studio photographs (04800613)

On August 29, 1935, 6.46 inches of rain fell on Las Cruces. It was the wettest day in the city’s recorded history. Rainwaters rushed down from the Organ Mountains, filling the arroyos that wove through town and raising the water level of the Rio Grande. Failed or absent drainage systems resulted in up to 4 feet of water in some parts of town. Floodwaters left nearly 500 residents homeless, destroying homes, schools, businesses and roads, and delayed the start of the school year. Damages were estimated at half a million dollars, the equivalent of almost 9.5 million dollars today. Thankfully, no souls were lost.  

black and white photograph of truck driving down flooded Alameda boulevard

Looking north on Alameda Blvd, Las Cruces Union High School in the distance. August 1935. A74-061 Rives Studio Photographs (A74-061-0359)

An area north of Picacho Ave, in what is now part of the Alameda-Depot Historic Districtat the time the city’s newest neighborhood, suffered some of the worst damage. Greening Ave., off Alameda Blvd, reportedly received four feet of water and several homes suffered full or partial destruction. This area of town lacked adequate drainage. Water was still standing while in other parts of town it had begun to subside after the rains had stopped.

black and white photograph of children playing in a flooded street

Children playing in floodwaters at the corner of Willoughby and Alameda streets. August 30, 1935. Ms0480 Horton’s Ballard’s Studio Photographs (04800606)

black and white photograph of a man carrying chickens and belongings through floodwaters.

Man carrying chickens and belongings through floodwaters. August 1935. A74-061 Rives Studio Photographs (A74-061-0348)

Homes and businesses constructed of adobe were the hardest hit. Walls simply crumbled and washed away. Others soaked up the standing water and were in danger of collapsing. Hugh Gardner, president of New Mexico A & M College (NMSU), had his garage fall in on his car. The family of Hugh Sawyer, at 202 Greening Ave, fled their home in the middle of the night moments before it began to collapse. Camp Broadway Motor Court on Picacho Ave. lost three cabins. South Ward School, under reconstruction, was completely destroyed. Also damaged were farms and crops, including a loss of 5,000 bales of cotton valued at $300,000. Numerous cattle drowned or washed away in arroyos. 

black and white photograph of a garage collapsed on a car

Collapsed garage on car. August 1935. A74-061 Rives Studio Photographs (A74-061-0349)

black and white photograph of house partially destroyed by floodwater

Flood damaged home at 202 Greening Ave. August 1935. A74-061 Rives Studio Photographs (A74-061-0361)

Relief efforts included housing the displaced men at the National Guard Armory and women in Catholic churches, and setting up a soup kitchen to feed everyone. To prevent looting, National Guard members patrolled the streets. Civilian Conservation Corps camp workers filled sandbags, cleared debris, and pumped water out of flooded areas. Canoes and rowboats paddled up and down streets rescuing both people and their belongings from flooded homes.  

black and white photograph of a couple in a rowboat on a flooded street

Boat of International Boundary Commission on Alameda Blvd. This boat carried several people and much property to safety. August 1935. Ms0094 Herbert W. Yeo papers (00941776)

black and white photograph of flooded street full of debris, people standing in knee high water

Flooded street full of debris. August 1935. A74-061 Rives Studio Photographs (A74-061-0370)

Las Cruces,¬†part of the¬†Chihuahuan¬†Desert, sees its fair share of rain during monsoon season. Flooding has long been an issue in Las Cruces and surrounding areas, although none as severe since 1935.¬†As the city has grown, neighborhoods¬†occasionally¬†pop¬†up in arroyos and flood zones.¬†Flood control projects are ongoing in¬†Do√Īa Ana¬†County. A report drafted by retired engineer Herbert W. Yeo on the 1935 flood, addresses the issues¬†that resulted in the catastrophic damage caused by the heavy rainfall¬†and has been used in creating control plans. His report is available as part of the¬†Herbert W. Yeo papers¬†in the Rio Grande Historical Collections. Additional photographs of the aftermath of the flood¬†can be¬†found¬†in¬†the Library‚Äôs¬†photo database.¬†

black and white photograph of two people paddle in flood waters in front of Camp Broadway

Camp Broadway on Picacho Ave. August 1935. A74-061 Rives Studio Photographs (A74-061-0355)

black and white photograph of road destroyed by flood

Roadway destroyed by floodwaters. August 1935. A74-061 Rives Studio Photographs (A74-061-0379)


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