Spring wind storm kills Clovis man

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo The National Weather Service warned that the strong winds would result in areas of reduced visibility in blowing dust, which were visible most of the day. A strong wind gust is being blamed for the death of a Clovis man at the Southwest Cheese Plant

Freedom New Mexico

A spring wind storm that pounded eastern New Mexico Saturday with 65 mph gusts is being blamed for the death of a Clovis man.

Juan R. Chavez, 35, died after a wind blast caught the loading door of a semi truck, slamming him into a wall at a Southwest Cheese dock.

Chavez suffered head injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival at Plains Regional Medical Center, according to Curry County Undersheriff Wesley Waller.

Waller said the freak accident happened about 10 a.m. as Chavez was prepping the truck at the plant’s loading dock.

Southwest Cheese Human Resources Manager Brenda Miller said Chavez was a warehouse operator. He had worked at the plant since it opened in October 2006.

“This was just kind of a strange accident to have happen,” said Miller.

“We certainly express our sorrow and condolences to his family,” Miller said. “We’re keeping his family in our thoughts and prayers. He was a well liked employee.”

Clovis was directly in the path of the spring wind storm, which moved across the state to the Texas panhandle.

The National Weather Service reported the strongest winds hit eastern plains and central mountain chain, knocking out power to about 5,000 customers in southwest Albuquerque, tearing down signs and toppling trucks.

Clovis Police Department Chief Steve Sanders said no damage was reported by early evening.

An Xcel Energy spokesman said though there were power outages in Hobbs and Albuquerque, none were reported in Curry, Roosevelt or DeBaca counties.

The National Weather Service warned that the strong winds would result in areas of reduced visibility in blowing dust, which were visible throughout Clovis most of the day.

Ken De Los Santos with Curry County Emergency Management, said the most dangerous part of windy weather is usually the fire hazard it causes.

“Everybody is watching for fires,” he said. “There’s a red flag warning also.”

De Los Santos said his organization disperses weather information obtained from the National Weather Service to 300 to 400 people via e-mail. The list is made up of media outlets, city, county and government agencies, businesses and individuals.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report