Robust winds pummeled Chaves County for the second time in less than a month Wednesday, inflicting damage on some property, and creating hazardous conditions for drivers.
A low-pressure system that came in off the Pacific Ocean hit a strong jetstream and cut through New Mexico, according to Todd Shoemake, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.
“Pretty typical for springtime here in New Mexico, in April, but it still is one of the stronger high wind events we’ve had in the last few years,” Shoemake said.
Winds picked up speed between 10 and 11 a.m., reaching 40 to 50 mph and then climbing to eventually reach peak gusts of 61 mph in Roswell at 2:51 p.m., he said.
Visibility was also severely hindered by dirt and blowing dust, with visibility dropping in the late morning and early afternoon to about five miles and was as low as a half a mile by 3 or 4 p.m, Shoemake said Thursday afternoon.
The winds and damage Roswell and communities experienced were less severe than those that rattled the area in mid-March. Shoemake said that the greater damage occurred in March because of the slightly stronger wind speeds and also the longer stretch of time those winds lasted.
Chaves County Sheriff Mike Herrington said Thursday no fatalities were reported Wednesday in connection with the winds.
Two people are in serious but stable condition after a two-vehicle accident in Hagerman Wednesday morning.
Justin Powell, fire chief with Dexter Fire & Rescue said his department, along with crews from Hagerman, the city of Roswell Fire Department and District 8 — a county department composed mainly of inmates and correctional officers from the Roswell Correctional Center — all assisted in response to the accident. Powell said first responders spent at least 15 to 20 minutes trying to extract a person from one of the vehicles.
He added that he does not know if winds were a factor in the accident, but decreased visibility caused by the winds did delay response times because much of the time, crews could not see where they were going. Powell said he was not aware of any other instances of damage in Dexter caused by the winds.
Within the city of Roswell, three minor accidents with no serious injuries were reported Wednesday after 10 a.m. but Todd Wildermuth, public information officer for the city of Roswell, said he couldn’t say if the wind had anything to do with them.
Dirt kicked into the air by the winds created poor visibility along sections of U.S. 285, but Ray Wilson of the New Mexico State Police said no accidents were reported on local highways around Chaves County.
Objects could be seen carried by the wind across the street, including an empty dumpster that, at one point, careened through the intersection of Main and McGaffey streets, forcing traffic to swerve around it.
An awning connected to a steel building at the 700 block of South Virginia Avenue nearly blew off. Wildermuth later said he was not sure about the extent of damage done, but that no injuries had been reported.
Herrington said deputies received and responded to more than 100 calls above their usual call traffic, ranging from reports of downed wires to requests for deputies to check in on someone. He also said that part of the roof on the Sierra Middle School had been damaged.
Herrington said there was a grass fire on Darby and Honolulu roads, but the fire was quickly put out by county departments despite the heat and fierce winds.
Shortly before noon, the New Mexico Department of Transportation shut down a portion of the Relief Route to southwest Roswell between West Brasher Road and Sunset Avenue because of decreased visibility caused by flying dust from the nearby Roswell Municipal Landfill and concrete-crushing plants.
Traffic throughout the day was detoured onto Brasher and Sunset. The landfill and the Spring River Park & Zoo were both closed Wednesday due to the high winds.
A high percentage of customers served by the Central Valley Electric Cooperative between Roswell and Artesia lost power.
Mike Anderson, finance and administration manager for Central Valley Electric, said Thursday that most residential customers in the affected area were where electrical poles had been knocked over and lines down.
Employees worked through the afternoon and into the evening to get power back on for residential customers and were largely successful in doing so.
However, work is still being done to address several down polls and outages in an oilfield east of Artesia.
Downed poles and lines also had left more than 1,000 customers without power in south Roswell, due to at least one damaged pole, according to Wes Reeves with Xcel Energy.
He said the cause of the outage was a damaged pole. Power was restored to most of the customers after the pole was fixed.
Power had been fully restored to all Xcel Energy customers by 9:48 p.m. Wednesday according to an outage map on Xcel Energy’s website.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at email@example.com.