Morning Word

Flash flood risk looms in fire zone

Spaceport America signs deal as landing site for winged spacecraft

Flash food risk looms in fire zone

State officials, weather watchers, firefighters and others in between continue to predict flash floods will significantly affect communities in and around the boundaries of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, yet despite recent soaking rains, danger has been thus far averted. “Rainfall has occurred in burn scar areas throughout the week, but no severe flooding or damage has been reported,” reads a statement issued by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office Wednesday night. “However, as soil becomes saturated, the potential for flash flooding increases. Residents should remain vigilant as the monsoon season progresses.” The state is using a three-stage flood alert system with “prepare,” “watch” and “warning” levels updated on a real-time map. Those in affected areas should monitor TV, radio, “reliable social media channels” and phones for real-time weather during “prepare,” as well as ensure phones are enabled to receive emergency alerts (here are instructions for iPhone and Android) and plan an evacuation route or routes. At “watch,” all items to evacuate should be ready to go, while at “warning,” evacuate when officials say it’s time. The Department of Transportation and the National Guard have already delivered 2,000 tons of sand and distributed nearly 100,000 sandbags in San Miguel and Mora counties to protect property in the event of flooding. “The monsoon came in like a lion with much needed rain. Fortunately, the rain fell on our new burn scars at a pace they can handle without major flooding (so far),” reads a Wednesday tweet from the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. The US Forest Service reports the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire remains at 341,471 acres and 72% containment.

Spaceport signs deal for runway dreams

Winged spacecraft on contract for NASA could land in New Mexico at Spaceport America following a new memorandum of understanding with Sierra Space. The Southern New Mexico facility joins a list of compatible runways where its Dream Chaser could land, including the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and airports and landing sites in Huntsville, Alabama; Oita Airport in Japan; and Spaceport Cornwall in the United Kingdom. The company has a contract with NASA for seven commercial resupply missions to the International Space Station providing cargo delivery, return and waste disposal services—set to first launch next year. According to an announcement from the Spaceport, the vehicles are “the only commercial spacecraft capable of low-g earth return to compatible commercial runways worldwide, allowing immediate access to high value payloads.” Both Spaceport America and Sierra Space will next pursue a Part 433 reentry site operator’s license for the location from the Federal Aviation Administration. “Spaceport America is enormously proud to combine efforts with Sierra Space,” Scott McLaughlin, Spaceport executive director, said in a statement. “As a potential landing site for the Dream Chaser spaceplane, we will continue to open affordable access to space for all in the United States and the world.”

LANL contractor’s safety report is a mixed bag

As Los Alamos National Laboratory prepares to increase production of plutonium pits for nuclear weapons, the Government Accountability Office says those efforts are contributing to safety concerns for Triad National Security, LLC contract workers and the community. The report issued earlier this month notes progress under the contractor that has been in place since 2018, however. “We found that the new contractor has taken positive steps toward improving safety, such as improving policies and practices around reporting safety issues,” reads the report summary. “However, several incidents and injuries indicate that the contractor has not yet fully integrated lessons learned from past safety errors into laboratory operations.” Those incidents, the report notes, include management of a flood at the facility. National Nuclear Safety Administration officials told the GAO that Triad has “made progress in stabilizing LANL’s workforce and has consistently met its annual goal for small business participation.” Yet, the contractor faces difficulty attracting new staff and small businesses “due to LANL’s remote location and the unique nature of LANL’s work.” Meanwhile, for the third year in a row, Los Alamos County has been named No. 1 in the US News & World Report list of the “America’s 25 Healthiest Communities.” The magazine analyzes “89 factors that fuel and form the health of residents” on a 100-point scale and gave Los Alamos a perfect score.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported June 22:

New cases: 926; 555,592 total cases

Deaths: 8; Santa Fe County has had 309 total deaths thus far; there have been 7,891 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 175. Patients on ventilators: 14.

Vaccines for children: The New Mexico Department of Health announced Tuesday that parents of children ages 6 months to 5 years can now schedule appointments for vaccinations at VaccineNM.org.

Case rates: According to the most recent DOH report on geographical trends for COVID-19, for the seven-day period of June 13-19, Grant County had the highest daily case rate per 100,000 population in the state: 103.1, followed by Los Alamos County at 101.5 and Rio Arriba County at 59.8. Santa Fe County has a rate of 57.7.

Community levels: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “community levels” tracking system—which uses case rates along with two hospital metrics in combination for its framework—for the seven-day period of June 9-15, nine counties show high—or “red”—levels—seven more than last week. Twelve counties, including Santa Fe County, are classified as having yellow or “medium” levels. CDC recommendations for individuals and communities based on the community-level rankings can be found here, but include the recommendation for people living in counties with “high” community levels to wear masks indoors and on public transportation. The CDC updates its map every Thursday.

Resources: Vaccine registration; Booster registration Free at-home rapid antigen tests; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department; COVID-19 treatment info: oral treatments Paxlovid (age 12+) and Molnupiravir (age 18+); and monoclonal antibody treatments. Toolkit for immunocompromised individuals. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Listen up

The Black Fire in southwestern New Mexico has burned over at least three Mexican gray wolf dens. Maggie Dwire, assistant wolf recovery coordinator for the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Mexican Wolf Program, is the guest on this month’s segment of Our Land on NMPBS. The fire comes at denning time for wolves, which means parent wolves are caring for four to six pups. Dwire explains why that matters and unpacks the captive breeding program and recovery programs in Mexico and the US.

Heating up the opera for 2023

While opera goers for the 2022 season are still planning their tailgate meals for opening night July 1, the Santa Fe Opera unveiled its 2023 season Wednesday. Tickets have gone on sale for five new productions on tap next year between June 30 and Aug. 26 for Tosca, by Giacomo Puccini; The Flying Dutchman, by Richard Wagner; Pellás et Mélisande, by Claude Debussy; Rusalka, by Antonín Dvořák; and Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi. While the season does not include an entirely new opera this go-round, Rusalka features a newly commissioned orchestration by Nico Muhly. The Wagner opera was last staged in Santa Fe more than 30 years ago, but General Director Robert K. Meya says in a video introducing the season that it’s an “audience favorite” and will be “centered in the Industrial Revolution.” The season, the 66th for the opera, also marks the 50th year of the Pueblo Opera Program, which presents a music program for children and families from the state’s tribes and pueblos “funded on our shared value and respect for the power of storytelling,” says Meya, who promises a forthcoming premiere of a commissioned documentary on the program. Meya also reveals one of the Santa Fe Opera’s plans for the 2024 season: its 19th world premiere, The Righteous, by American composer Gregory Spears and former US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith as librettist. “This story is a retelling, or a reconsidering of the story of David from the Bible set in the 70s to 90s church community in southwestern America,” Smith says. “We’re interested in the ways that genuine faith and actual power inform and change one another.”

Take the weekend

Travel blog Little Blue Backpack made a quick trip from Colorado to Santa Fe and writes (we think) an honest take on how it went “surrounded by art, mountains, and the color teal,” along with a decent layout for “The Perfect Weekend in Santa Fe.” Spoiler alert: Writer Amber Eggen does learn the word “turquoise,” but she is not impressed with her $90 dinner at Paloma. Meanwhile, she raves about The Shed even though she waited two hours for a table on a Saturday night. (Pro tip: The Shed takes reservations up to three months in advance.) Also recommended for a visit, or a staycation as the case may be, are The Pantry’s newest location on Alameda, along with shopping at Double Take and Array while waiting for another table on the patio of Cowgirl BBQ. While she calls Meow Wolf one of Santa Fe’s “main attractions” and recommends visiting overall, she notes the price of $42 per person and $27 for a child is “a little steep” and proffers a suggestion on the up-sell, “You have to pay a few dollars extra for 3D glasses and coins for the photo booth or games. Skip it. I did both and it’s not worth it.”

Warmer and less wet

Temperatures are forecast to be warmer today, but still below average for June with a high in Santa Fe of 83. The National Weather Service calls for a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after noon, with northeast winds of 5 to 10 mph becoming west at 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading! The (substitute) Word is grateful to the readers who pointed out two numbers she transposed in yesterday’s report on the acreage of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. She does not really blame it on the rain, but here’s this.

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