Storm sweeps through Portales

By Janet Bresenham

A powerful storm swept through Roosevelt and Curry counties Wednesday evening, sounding tornado sirens and leaving power outages, road closures and damage from hail and wind in its wake.
However, no injuries were reported in the area.
Power was restored throughout Portales about 11:15 p.m., after being out for more than two hours.
New Mexico State Police Lt. Robert Shilling reported U.S. 70 and N.M. 467 between Clovis and Portales were closed during the storm while the area was under a tornado warning.
Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said the outages caused by downed power lines also knocked out emergency 911 service in the city for about 30 minutes. The radio system also went down, prompting phone calls to be routed to Clovis for awhile during the evening, Berry said.
“We’ve had major problems in Portales,” Berry said. “We have a lot of flooding and street closures. We’ve been without power in most of the city and we’ve had extremely high winds.”
However, city officials said there was no confirmation of any tornadoes touching down in the Portales area.
“I haven’t got anything confirmed,” said Portales Fire Department Battalion Chief John Bridges. “There’s been a lot of hearsay and rumors, but again, no confirmation from anybody on the ground.”
Berry said the winds were strong enough they tore the metal roof off a Roosevelt County Fairgrounds extension office building and blew parts of the roof across railroad tracks.
Another building on the north side of Portales also lost part of its roof due to high winds, Bridges said.
Tornado sirens went off several times Wednesday evening at Cannon Air Force Base, forcing personnel and civilians who were on base to remain indoors for about an hour. Heavy hail pounded the area and nearly a half-inch of rain fell in less than two hours, base officials said.
“We had three downed power lines on base,” said Capt. Mike Garcia, acting chief of Public Affairs at Cannon. “There also was some damage to the roof of the dining facility.”
While Portales, Roosevelt County and Cannon appeared to have suffered the brunt of the night’s severe storm activity, Clovis also weathered tornado sirens and heavy rain throughout the evening Wednesday.
National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Keith Hayes said hail in some areas reached baseball size, up to three inches north and west of Clovis in the Ranchvale and Melrose areas.
“There have been times where tornadoes have briefly touched down but also there have been cases a funnel cloud would drop down but not reach the ground,” Hayes said. “The main thing has probably been some strong winds and periodic large hail.”
A second tornadic cell developed behind the first cell and came through the area about an hour later, mostly sparing Curry County but hitting the Roosevelt County town of Elida, Hayes said.
“We had some damage in Roosevelt County that continued into east central Roosevelt County,” Hayes said. “We saw 1 inch hail at Rogers, and prior to that, 1.75 inch hail and 60 mph winds at Elida.”
Weather forecasters predicted more unstable weather in the region today.
Freedom Newspapers staff writer Darrell Todd Maurina contributed to this report.