Several funnel clouds were reported in the Clovis area, according to the National Weather Service. (Courtesy photo: Carolyn Spence)
By Ryn Gargulinski: CNJ staff writer
Clovis residents who took cover Friday evening when they heard the tornado warning sirens did the right thing.
What they could not have known, was that the warning sirens were set off in error, according to Ken De Los Santos, emergency management director of Curry County.
“It was not a tornado warning,” De Los Santos said. “The sirens should not have gone off. We’re still doing some checking to see what happened.”
De Los Santos said it could not have been a prank, as the siren activation switch is in a controlled communications center at the police department.
“It’s better to err on the side of caution,” De Los Santos said. “If, for example, they had not been set off and there were a tornado, that would have been the worse (scenario) of the two.”
Several funnel cloud sightings were reported in the Clovis area during the fast-moving storm, along with hail the size of golf balls and winds up to 70 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
A tornado warning was issued in Texico, said De Los Santos. There were no reports of a tornado on the ground, but radar indicated that one could happen easily.
Twister or not, heavy winds and meandering thunderstorms knocked down limbs and caused scattered power outages in southeastern New Mexico and west Texas, according to city and Xcel Energy officials.
“The power was the big issue,” said Lt. Rich Johnson of the Clovis Police Department. According to Johnson, most of Prince Street, pretty much everything east of Main Street and north of 14th Street went black. This included traffic signals.
“At any given time there were 12 to 15 officers out there directing traffic,” said Johnson. He said several officers were called in to assist.
No major damage was reported, according to Johnson.
“People were inundating 911,” Johnson said. “A lot of people call needlessly. Each one takes time away from a real emergency.”
A power outage and a possible tornado are certainly significant events, Johnson said, but just not an issue for the emergency line.
Johnson recommended monitoring television and radios.
Tom Blanchette, Pro Shop manager at Chaparral Country Club, said they hauled away approximately five trailer loads of downed branches Saturday morning.
The Hillcrest Zoo was also full of debris, according to zoo clerk Laura Shepler. “We had an awful lot of limbs down, but nobody was hurt and nobody got away.”
Power outages became an issue again late Saturday afternoon, with many of the same areas in Clovis lacking electricity that were hit by an outage in Friday’s storm.
The first outage occurred at roughly 4:44 p.m. when 3,500 residential and commercial establishments lost electricity, Xcel Energy spokesman Bob Crenshaw said.
Crenshaw said by 7:46 p.m. power had been restored but the root of the problem remained unsolved.
“We have not been able to this point to determine the cause of the problem in that area. We have mustered personnel from field operations, our transmission group, substations group, systems control — engineers from all of our specialties — to determine first what the problem is and then we will have the confidence to fix it. We will be working into (Saturday) night, if need be, to determine the solution,” Crenshaw said.