The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Stormy weather this way comes

 

November 20, 2019



Weather forecasters on Monday began warning about “two significant storm systems” expected to bring widespread rain — and possibly 40-mph winds — to eastern New Mexico today and Thursday.

The phrase “significant storm systems” tends to attract our attention. If it doesn’t, it should.

Our Chambers of Commerce are quick to point out our average daily temperature is 57 degrees and we have about 300 days of sunshine every year.

But we are also famous for our extreme weather.

Consider:

• On Feb. 1, 1967, much of the region saw temperatures in the low 80s.

On that same date in 1951, Clovis set its all-time record for cold: 17 degrees below zero.

Clovis schools dismissed that morning soon after students arrived. “With the tremendous load on natural gas lines caused by the sub-zero temperatures, gas pressure in some school buildings was reported too low for adequate heating,” the Clovis News-Journal reported.

• At least twice in the past century, we’ve seen fewer than 8 inches of rain in a calendar year. But on Sept. 6, 1957, some areas saw more than 5 inches of rain in just a few hours.

A reporter counted 287 drowned sparrows in one yard on Clovis’ West Seventh Street after that downpour.

• Snow tends to cause the most trouble around here, and don’t think November is too early for that to happen.

While the region has recorded 20-plus entire winters with less than 3 inches of snow, there was that spell in 1911 when we saw more than 22 inches fall in November alone.

Eastern New Mexico saw more than 43 inches of snow fall in the winter of 1911-12 and more than 38 inches fall in 1982-83.

And it was about this time of year in 1923 when we had a pair of foot-deep snowfalls about three weeks apart. That second snowfall also saw high winds, which produced 5-foot drifts and resulted in eight deaths. Passenger trains were stranded on the tracks for hours.

• The day after Christmas in 2015 brought the worst blizzard in most local memories — 8 to 12 inches of snow in the midst of 40-mph sustained winds that lasted all night.

When the sun came up, cars were buried and abandoned alongside highways for miles, and snow drifts were 10 feet high in places.

Some dairy farmers reported snow blocked access to their barns for 72 hours. Thousands of cattle and other livestock died, though no people were killed in the storm nicknamed “Goliath.”

• And that wind can cause amazing amounts of damage even without moisture.

Never mind the 2007 tornado that did millions of dollars in damage across Curry and Roosevelt counties, leaving two people dead, straight-line winds can be just as scary.

Last spring, 70-mph wind gusts were blamed for blowing a train “off its tracks, off a train trestle and down into a deep ravine,” near Logan.

“This is a reminder that we cannot take the high winds for granted and we all need to take precautions when traveling throughout New Mexico,” State Sen. Pat Woods said.

This week’s “significant storm systems” are expected to bring heavy snowfall to the northern and western mountains of our state, but the Clovis-Portales area should see only rain.

Rain, that is, with 40-mph wind gusts.

So be careful out there. This could be another of those famous extreme weather events.

David Stevens writes about regional history. Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
 

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