By Ryn Gargulinski: Freedom Newspapers
– Heavy rain, hail and high winds reek havoc on area yards, farms.
The night skies across New Mexico were alight with red, white and blue on the Fourth of July, but the fireworks were about the only illumination for Tucumcari residents. More than 4,500 homes and businesses lost power at 8:40 p.m. on Monday, according to Xcel Energy officials.
A thunderstorm knocked down two power lines, Xcel Energy representative Bill Crenshaw said.
Although nearly half of the power had been restored by midnight using a backup system from the old Tucumcari power plant, many residents and businesses did not see electricity again until 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Crenshaw said.
The local radio station was also knocked off the air, as was cable television.
Irene Valdez, manager of Winners, said the power outage cost her store about $1,500 in spoiled food.
“We have a lot of our ice cream down and all our fast food stuff is all ruined,” Valdez said.
The loss of power wasn’t the only result of the storm, which dropped 1.29 inches of rain and produced wind gusts up to 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
“Tree limbs were just everywhere,” Valdez said of the view on her morning trek from Logan into Tucumcari.
Valdez and Deputy Bill Anderson of the Quay County sheriff’s office noted a truck wreck on Highway 54.
“The winds literally picked up a semi and threw it on the other side of the street,” Valdez said, noting she saw another semi rolled over on Interstate 40.
New Mexico State Police reported drivers of both trucks were taken to local hospitals with non-critical injuries.
High winds and heavy rains stripped limbs from trees and shingles from roofs, ripping much of the roof off the old Zia Elementary School.
The storm also destroyed some area crops. Elmer Schuster, who rents out large portions of his land just east of Tucumcari, said his leasee lost about 1,500 acres of cotton due to massive wind and hail.
“Everyone was looking forward to a good crop and then this storm hit,” Schuster said. “(He’ll) probably plant hay grazer or something to make up the difference.”
Schuster said the average acre of cotton rakes in $600, whereas a crop like the hay pulls in about $100.
Loose livestock were also roaming the streets, a common occurrence during heavy storms, Anderson said.
“You always have livestock out when the wind starts blowing,” he said. “They keep pushing and pushing (on the fence) to try to get away from the wind.”
Meteorologist Jeff Michalski of the National Weather Service said isolated showers and thunderstorms were expected to continue this afternoon, evening and Thursday.