Wind creates chaos in eastern N.M.

Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer

Daniel Zion spent Sunday and Monday destroying his first memory of 2006.

“Heck of a way to ring in the new year,” Zion said with a laugh. Around him and his friends were four piles of logs and branches, piles that used to be a 40-foot tree that rested between his home and Rosa Viscano’s home on the 600 block of S. Main Ave.

The tree fell on the house of Rosa Viscano a little before 11 a.m. on Sunday, knocking out power to the home. Attempts to contact Viscano Monday were unsuccessful.

Shortly after the tree fell, Zion was woken up and told of the matter. He and friends spent Sunday and Monday doing what they could to help out.

“It was a really big tree,” Zion said while standing next to a thick stump four feet in height, the last remnants of the tree. “We spent yesterday hacking off the main branches.”

Not everybody else in Portales had such matters to start the new year. For most others, the winds were little more than an inconvenience to start off 2006.

Still, it didn’t help matters for local emergency workers.
The Portales Fire Department responded to a few grass fires, Lt. Lance Hill said.

“We had multiple calls that the wind did play a factor in,” Hill said, “a couple of grass fires we were able to knock down.”
For the most part, Portales and other fire crews spent their time helping their firefighting neighbors in the south. Cody Padgett was along with one of the two PFD trucks sent to help fight fires in Tatum. Padgett, who has been with the department for two-and-a-half years, said the fire in Tatum was a very difficult one, largely because of winds of about 52 mph.

“We were just fighting a heck of a wind,” Padgett said. “We had some serious wind. You were fighting wind, dirty smoke. (We had) pretty much zero visibility at times. It was tough to see other fire trucks and houses and farm equipment.”

The Portales Police Department also had a busier day than most Sundays because of the weather. Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said that most of Sunday’s efforts went towards directing traffic away from grass fires and helping people who had damaged property.

“We had the same crew we usually had on (a Sunday),” Berry said. “For a little while with the fires, I thought we would have to call in extra help, but we got caught up with everything.”

Representatives of both the fire and police departments said the timing of the holiday had little to no impact on the day.

In general, Hill said that windy days like Sunday can turn even a small fire into a devastating incident, especially with so much dry land. Hill advised people who are doing controlled burns to contact the fire department in advance at 356-4406.

“They need to be particularly careful with burning,” Hill said. “There’s a burn ban in the city at all times. As far as county people, they need to be careful, and if they do burn, they need to extinguish it completely with water.”