File photo File photo Curry County Extension Agent Stan Jones said an April 17 wildfire that burned 71,000 acres of south Curry County is expected to cost the agricultural community $16 million just this year with an estimated $40 million over time, according to an economic feasibility study.
A dry, windy spring created conditions for one of the more massive wildfires to hit eastern New Mexico in decades.
Sparks from a wheel following a tire blowout near Melrose spurred the April 17 fire that burned about 71,000 acres, destroyed three homes, killed dozens of livestock and sent three firefighters to the hospital.
Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman said 30-mph winds helped fuel the fire, which burned about 11 hours and covered 25 miles across Curry and Roosevelt counties.
Weather records showed the region had received only a trace of moisture in a month and barely an inch in the year’s first 4 1/2 months. Cannon Air Force Base had only received 9 inches of moisture for the year by mid-December — about half the annual average.
Burn bans were enacted across the region. Still, multiple prairie fires consumed tens of thousands of acres through the summer. Five structures were lost in a June 18 blaze that spanned more than 20,000 acres across the Curry and Quay County line.
Temperatures hovered near zero the first four days of February. Weather officials said the region hadn’t seen temperatures so cold for so long in 20 years.
Wind-chill values were more than 20 below zero on Feb. 3, with a record-setting 8 degrees below zero recorded at Cannon Air Force Base.
While July’s normally hot in New Mexico, this year’s was the eighth-hottest on record.
“A typical July in Clovis will see a high of 91 throughout the month and an average low of 60,” said Erik Pindrock, a meteorologist for Accuweather.com.
“The actual average high for July 2011 turned out to be 96 degrees. The average low temperature turned out to be 67 degrees.”
Ala. twister hits home
Eastern New Mexico did not experience any killer tornadoes in 2011, but 2010 Clovis High graduate Delaney Ware witnessed one up close and personal on April 27.
Ware, a student at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, said she had to take cover as a mile-wide twister missed her campus by “literally half a block” and flattened much of the city.
Officials said more than 350 tornadoes killed more than 340 people from April 25 to April 28 in 21 states. Officials said the Tuscaloosa tornado killed 43, and left 1,000 injured.
Another big wind
Former Portales residents Justin and Kari (Thompson) Nevins lost their family home to a twister in Joplin. Mo., on May 22.
The Nevins family, including four children, safely rode out the storm in their cellar, emerging to a community of destruction.