Tumbleweed removal troublesome

By Eric Norwood Jr.
Cannon Connections

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The sound of a city dump truck in reverse pierced the bitter cold air Tuesday as an armada of city workers, airmen and residents worked to clear the mountains of tumbleweeds that invaded the northwest Clovis neighborhood a night earlier.

In what looked more like a construction site than a residential neighborhood, tractors scraped the concrete as it scooped up a crushed pile, just loud enough to cause a cringe, and dumped them in the truck with a loud boom.

The tractor reversed, and proceeded to run over a large pile of tumbleweeds repeatedly, to compact the dusty debris.

The area just south of Llano Estacado, on Wicks Avenue, Lore Street and Red Cloud Place was hardest hit, with several residents unable to even walk out their front door, according to Public Works Director Clint Bunch.

The tumbleweed invasion was fueled by winds that reached 60 mph on Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.

Bunch said the city had about 25 men working on getting rid of tumbleweeds citywide, and another 25 to 50 Cannon Air Force Base volunteers.

There were about 10 trucks, three loaders and two skid steer loaders involved in the cleanup effort.

“We’re dumping them at the landfill and they’re being compacted even more there. Once there, they become just little sticks, and we mix them in with the other waste,” Bunch said.

Eddie Ward, 24, and Kirk Manasco, 23, were joined by airmen to help clear the tumbleweeds from the front yard of their home on Red Cloud Place. All had gloves on protecting their hands. Their method for getting rid of the tumbleweeds?

“Push ’em into the street, wait for the City to come,” Ward said matter-of-factly.

Two blocks away, Isaac Garcia was doing the same to rid his rental property of 15- to 20-foot tall mound tumbleweeds in his front yard.

Garcia was moving them from the backyard with a rake.

“The city is scooping them up and hauling them away,” Garcia said.

Danny Lujan, who works for the city of Clovis in the parks maintenance division, was on the scene near Red Cloud Place, helping to remove the tumbleweeds out of the street.

“We’re getting all of the tumbleweeds out of the alleys and streets. We cannot go on private property,” Lujan said.

The county road department was using road graders and tractors to crush the tumbleweeds until they were sticks.

“We just smash them down and shred them until they are almost nothing. We have limited man power,” said David Corbin, a foreman at the county road department.

Corbin said there were six county workers focusing on tumbleweeds.

Lujan estimates that in two days, the city has hauled away more than 200 loads of tumbleweeds, and they may only be about halfway done.

“We’re all working overtime,” said Lujan.

Jo Priest, 72, was out early clearing the tumbleweeds from her porch in the Cheyenne Trails Apartments.

“I’ve lived here 12 years, and I’ve seen it like this maybe once,” said Priest, as she pushed a broom. She had managed to get all of the tumbleweeds off her porch, but the parking lot was still covered in sticks and dust.

Other residents in the senior housing complex were also clearing their patios.

“They brought a caterpillar tractor (Monday) to clear the parking lot. (Monday), I couldn’t even walk onto the porch,” said Art Thompson, one of Priest’s neighbors.

Bunch said the city will definitely be working on tumbleweeds for the rest of the week, and probably into next week.

“For landowners, push them into the street or alley and we’ll make sure to get them,” said Bunch.

Thompson was light-hearted about the whole situation, and left with a word of advice.

“If you see one of them monsters, kill it.”