By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer
A series of thunderstorms that dumped almost an inch of much-needed rain across the area isn’t enough to alleviate the hazardous fire conditions in eastern New Mexico, according to fire officials.
Case in point — firefighters were called out to extinguish a burning boxcar mid-morning Friday on U.S. 70 near the Roosevelt County line.
“Short term this rain is a good start but we’ve got to get some rain behind it,” said Lt. Ricky Mitchell of the Clovis Fire Department.
The area’s last comparable rain to Thursday’s was more than three months ago on March 20 when Clovis received .92 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.
Since that time there have been smatterings of moisture, but not enough to turn the corner on dry local conditions. A burn ban is in effect in Curry County.
Current Clovis rain levels for the year are falling below the norm of 6.3 inches, resting at 4.04 according to Accuweather, Inc.
Curry County Manager Dick Smith said the burn ban is nowhere near being lifted.
“We need several sustained rains. We’re in an extreme drought situation here and it takes a lot of moisture to turn that around,” Smith said.
Clovis firefighters have responded to 25 grass fires since March 1, according to Karen Burns of the Clovis Fire Department. That equals 25 percent of all calls received this spring, a toll on personnel and equipment.
Thursday’s downpour came in the late-evening hours, causing flooding in downtown streets, but had been absorbed for the most part by morning Friday.
“You (could) drive down the county roads and kick up dust (by) morning,” Curry County Extension Agent Les Owens said.
Owens agreed with Mitchell’s view that while the rain was welcome, it wasn’t enough for area farmers and ranchers.
“Any little bit of rain helps but it’s not going to solve any problems,” Owens said.
The lack of moisture since the fall has farm and ranch land parched.
“I’d like to see about a week of a good, slow, soaking rain — about 3 inches,” he said.
Owens could get his wish, according to Joe Alfieri of the National Weather service in Albuquerque.
Through Thursday forecasters have predicted a chance of rain in every 12-hour period.
“There is moisture out there and there are thunderstorms so that means we expect (rain) to happen again,” Alfieri said.