Lightning sparks grass fires

PNT Staff Report

According to Roosevelt County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Keith Wattenbarger, area fire departments were kept busy Monday night and early Tuesday morning with several grass fires sparked by lightning as a storm moved across the county south of Portales.

The largest of those fires was reported around 2:20 a.m. Tuesday on Roosevelt Road 12 between Dora and Portales. Wattenbarger said the fire was visible from both U.S. 70 and N.M. 206 for a time as it started out burning hot in grassland.

Dora and Portales fire units battled the blaze for several hours. Portales Fire Department officials reported the fire as about 120 acres in size.

Wattenbarger said that there were numerous fires earlier Monday evening in the Elida and Kenna areas, but all were kept small by quick response.

“They (Elida Fire Department) were getting to them very quickly and getting them put out, Wattenbarger said. “They did a great job.”

Wattenbarger said reports of a funnel cloud near Kenna were likely exaggerated. He said he observed the cloud shortly after it was reported and said it was not a funnel cloud. The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning that lasted about 45 minutes Monday evening. He said that in the daylight Tuesday morning, he drove around the area where the storm came across and could find no evidence of a tornado being on the ground.

Wattenbarger said some power lines were down and damaged near Milnesand and the Pep and Milnesand areas received high winds and hail Monday night.

“We’re looking at another round tonight,” Wattenbarger said of the severe storms.