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

By David Gay
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Saturday storms tear through Texas Panhandle


Last updated 3/16/2021 at 5:51pm

When Andrew Shirey got to Palo Duro Canyon on Friday afternoon, he knew there was the possibility of high winds and severe weather throughout the weekend.

But what occurred Saturday afternoon was not something he expected to happen during the first few days of his Spring Break.

The Amarillo office of the National Weather Service estimated six tornadoes made their way through the Texas Panhandle on Saturday, affecting southern Randall County, including Happy and Palo Duro Canyon, as well as other Panhandle towns including Claude and Clarendon.

According to NWS Amarillo, one large tornado hit the entranceway of Palo Duro Canyon State Park, affecting the nearby Palo Duro Canyon Zip Line Adventure Park.

Leann Overstreet, the public information officer for the Randall County Sheriff’s Office, said 16 hikers weathered the storm in the state park while 42 were evacuated out of the park as the storm was approaching.

Initially, five hikers were reported as missing after the storm, four of which were found shortly afterward. The fifth hiker was located later Saturday after a search. No injuries or fatalities related to the storm were immediately reported.

Stephen Bieda, the science and operations officer for the National Weather Service in Amarillo, said two crews of officials were out Sunday surveying the damage caused by the tornadoes, with one in southern Randall County in coordination with the county’s emergency management team, and the other in the Clarendon area.

“Right now, we are investigating that tornado and just trying to find all the structures that were impacted as a result of that tornado as it moved towards Palo Duro Canyon,” he said. “We have found damaged structures along the way, ranging from downed power lines, damage to various buildings.”

Bieda said there was also damage to RVs at the nearby adventure park as well as at the entrance center of the state park. According to previous reports, Overstreet said Saturday evening the water has been shut off in Palo Duro Canyon and they are not letting anyone on the property.

Overstreet also detailed some of the other damage which occurred at the park.

“The tower that housed the control for the water has been completely turned over. The ticket booth has been destroyed. Signs, gates, that sort of thing,” she said. “A couple of towers, our radio towers, have suffered some damage, not a lot.”

In other parts of Randall County, a few residences were damaged because of the storm along with downed power lines across the county. No injuries were reported in either of those cases.


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