By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
Portales residents must brace for severe weather, because the elements in the area offer a breeding ground for tornados.
Roosevelt County residents have already received their first dangerous encounter when a tornado warning was issued on Monday night during a hail storm. There was golf-sized hail reported from the storm and at least one New Mexico State Police vehicle had extensive damage to a vehicle, including damage to a headlight and a cracked windshield.
Keith Hayes, a National Weather Service Warning coordination meteorologist from Albuquerque, said June is a transitional period for rain storms. Hayes said typically there are spring showers in April and May, then June is hot and dry followed by thunderstorms in July and August.
Hayes said the storms in the eastern side of New Mexico on Monday were strongest between 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The storm on Monday was small compared to a storm on June 4, 2003 which caused flash flooding and power outages. Portales Emergency Management Coordinator Chuck Haman recalls the storm, which included a tornado sighting.
“I remember it was a nasty storm,” Haman, who has been working for the Portales Fire Department for 12 years, said. “Some trees were knocked over and parts of a roof came off of a building.”
Haman has been working as the emergency management coordinator for about a month. Haman said he has been talking with Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry and they are putting together a standard operating procedure for emergencies and what to do in case of severe weather.
Hayes said Haman and Clovis Emergency Management Coordinator Ken De Los Santos are contacted when a severe storm is developing. Haman and De Los Santos then contact storm spotters, who have taken Skywarn storm spotting courses, to keep an eye on storms and look for clues hinting a tornado and other severe weather.
Roosevelt and Curry Counties are inside the region considered a high risk for tornadoes, according to the Tornado Chaser Web site. Tornado alley extends from North Dakota to central Texas and from eastern New Mexico to central Ohio and central Tennessee.
“I really think Tucumcari, Roswell and the eastern side of New Mexico has a risk of tornadoes,” Hayes said. “It (eastern New Mexico) is the western extreme of tornado alley.”
The deadliest tornado in the United States occurred on March 18, 1925 when a tornado killed 695 people on a 219-mile-long track across parts of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, according to the NOAA Web site.
Tornado Safety Tips
Tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the National Weather Service and the American Red Cross:
• Develop a plan for yourself and your family for home, work and school.
• Know your community and keep a highway map nearby to follow storm movement.
• Have a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) radio with weather alarm and battery back-up to receive warnings.
• Listen for warnings on the radio and television.
• Listen to forecasts.