Emergency services prepared to warn residents of weather danger

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

Many residents of Clovis and Portales will have their eyes peeled on the weather, either through looking at the conditions directly or through updates via various media, as a cold front moves through Eastern New Mexico on Tuesday.

That’s also true for Curry and Roosevelt County emergency management personnel, whose job entails further informing the public about bad weather and road conditions.

“One of the first sites I go to every morning, for work, is weather stuff,” said Ken De Los Santos, emergency management director for Clovis and Curry County, pointing to Web locations operated by the National Weather Service and the like.

“They’re making it seem like the worst part, for our area, will be Tuesday,” De Los Santos added. “It said (in a Monday afternoon update) that less than an inch of precipitation is possible, but you never know with that.”

De Los Santos and Keith Wattenberger, emergency management coordinator for Roosevelt County, both point out it’s the decision of state agencies to either close roads or to lay down salt — for improved traction — in case of snow.

But each plans on utilizing local resources as the quickest information tool for the state.

“If the roads look like they’re getting tenuous, we go ahead and contact State Police and state highway folks. At that point, if they feel like there has to be road closures, that kind of falls under their purview,” Wattenberger said.

In Portales, Wattenberger said the city’s mass notification system will be utilized for any serious emergency problems. De Los Santos said local media resources are used to inform Clovis citizens of any significant developments, such as road closures or weather warnings.

The emergency management coordinators in both cities said that, during stormy conditions, increased police officers on duty are a realistic possibility in order to help citizens in need.

“We’ll call in a shift in early and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got a lot of (bad) road conditions, can you come in and work some roads?’” Wattenberger said. “Those kinds of situations kind of ebb and flow, last maybe an hour or two. To bring in people for long stretches, it’s not always cost effective, but we do always have people in a position that we can call.”

Winter weather driving tips:
• Reduce speed
• Plan ahead and be patient
• Don’t use cruise control
• Keep first aid supplies in the car
• Road conditions. www.nmroads.com or call 1-800-432-4269.
Source: New Mexico Department of Transportation