Monsoon rising

Clovis was under thunderstorm and tornado warnings on Wednesday evening as severe storms moved through the area.

CNJ Staff

Severe weather hopscotched over eastern New Mexico on Wednesday evening, largely sparing Clovis but damaging farms in northwest Curry County, downing power lines at Cannon Air Force Base and Portales and causing flooding in Portales.
The Moberly family farm north of Melrose was hit hard by what Jeanie Moberly believes was a tornado.
“It looks like a war zone up here,” she said. “We could see it coming, it was a quarter- to a half-mile wide. It looked like a huge dust devil, with dirt, rain and wind all mixed together.”
Moberly said her son drove her family out of the area as the storm approached. When they returned, they found their farm had been hit.
“ It came through our place and lifted a grain storage bin up and dropped it on my daughter’s double-wide trailer,” Moberly said. “A lot of our buildings have the tin off of them and a lot of our roof is gone.”
No people or livestock were injured, Moberly said.
“I’m just glad no one was hurt and our animals are OK,” Moberly said. “I’m a little shook still. We just now came in and you think, ‘Oh my God, it could have been so much worse.’”
While Moberly’s farm was hit, her neighbors weren’t.
“We’ve already checked with our neighbors one mile north and one mile south, and nothing happened. It just went through and hit us,” Moberly said.
Melrose weather observer Grady Bright said he received reports of damage in Field and Ragland, but didn’t have details.
Curry County Emergency Management Director Ken De Los Santos said his office had no time to tally its own damage reports because of more serious problems to the south.
“We are so busy right now we don’t have good information on the damage,” De Los Santos said about 9:30 p.m. “We are taking all 911 calls for Portales and Roosevelt County. Their system is out because they have had a lot of power outages and generator problems and also flash flooding.”
National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Keith Hayes said tornadoes were spotted sporadically throughout the region most of the evening, beginning about 5:45 p.m.
“There have been times where tornadoes have briefly touched down but also there have been cases (where) 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.”
Hayes said hail in some areas reached baseball size, up to three inches north and west of Clovis in the Ranchvale and Melrose areas.
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.”
A second tornadic cell developed behind the first cell. It mostly spared Curry County but began to hit Roosevelt County hard about 9:45 p.m.
“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.”
Portales and Roosevelt County appeared to have sustained the brunt of the night’s storm activity, with extensive power outages and weather-related problems.
However, city officials said that while there was damage from extremely high winds, 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.”
Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said the winds were strong enough that they tore the metal roof off a Roosevelt County Fairgrounds extension office building and blew parts of the roof across railroad tracks.
After losing emergency 911 service for about 30 minutes in the Portales area, Berry said service was restored.
Weather forecasters predicted more unsettled weather conditions for this evening.