Storm loses punch

Sunni Moberly, 8, looks Thursday into what used to be the bathroom of her mobile home north of Melrose. The mobile home was hit by a grain storage bin in Wednesday’s storm.

By Darrell Todd Maurina

Despite warnings of incoming severe weather, Thursday night storms fizzled out before reaching the Curry County line.
“The closer it got to Clovis the weaker the system got,” said Curry County Emergency Management Director Ken De Los Santos. “Our severe thunderstorm warning even ended early. It began at 6:14 p.m., it was supposed to end at 7:15 p.m., but it ended earlier than 7 p.m.”
By the time the system reached Clovis Municipal Airport, wind gusts had dropped to 63 mph, which National Weather Service officials said is at the low end of the severe storm range. De Los Santos said his office received no reports of damage
“Considering the storm we had, it was very quiet,” said De Los Santos. “I know a lot of people who saw the system said it looked really bad.”
According to the National Weather Service, the heaviest rain report in the area came from a cooperative observer three miles west of Portales who reported 0.70 inch of rain. Clovis Municipal Airport reported .31 inch and Cannon Air Force Base reported 0.24 inch. Although the weather service warned the storm would be heaviest in northern rural Curry County, residents in the area said they knew of no significant damage and only saw large amounts of rain. Vandean Isler of Grady said her rain gauge recorded .40 of an inch.
Areas south of Curry County that were hit by Wednesday night’s storm spent Thursday reviewing emergency procedures.
Many Portales residents lost power for more than three hours on Wednesday and drivers had fits trying to get through deep pockets of water that turned city streets into fast-moving rivers.
The east side of town near 18th and Kilgore Streets was especially hit hard by flooding.
Shortly after the city lost power, the Portales Police Department’s generator failed, shutting down 9-1-1 service and warning sirens in the area temporarily.
“Our goal in the future is to be more of an early response (unit) so folks know what is going to be available in the way of services if we have severe weather,” Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said at a press conference Thursday.
The worst of Wednesday’s storm swept through Portales between 9:15 and 9:30 p.m. At the height of the storm, a semi truck rolled over, closing the intersection of U.S. 70 and N.M. 467 for about two hours.
During one 30-minute stretch Wednesday night, Portales police received more than 300 calls from concerned residents.
Every active-duty police officer worked Wednesday night, Berry said. Teams patrolled every district in the city; many checked on nursing home residents and hospital personnel.
Others helped drivers stranded in streets swamped from extensive flash flooding, he said.
In response to the night’s mayhem, city officials conducted a press conference Thursday to stress the importance of safety.
“There were many people driving last night where conditions prohibited travel,” Portales Fire Chief Steve Beaty said. “Many cars got stuck, especially near 18th Street, where the water was at a very high level. Preplanning to safety in a major storm like we had last night is key.”
Driving during a tornado warning should be limited only to emergencies, Beaty said. Those living in mobile homes need to find safer places to ride out the storm.
Freedom Communications reporter Mike Linn contributed to this report.