By Janet Bresenham
A powerful storm cell packing heavy rain, pounding hail and high winds that cut a swath across Portales and Roosevelt County Wednesday night left a trail of stranded motorists, damaged property and nervous residents.
Here are some of their stories:
Maryann Pawlyshyn got more than she bargained for when she ventured out into Wednesday night’s storm to try to capture a photograph in case a tornado was spotted.
Her vehicle was almost hit by a piece of the upper roof torn loose from the Jake Lopez Community Center on the Roosevelt County Fairgrounds. Large portions of the steel roof were blown as far as 1,400 feet across the nearby railroad tracks.
“As I was coming back, this piece of the roof blew in front on me and it almost got my car,” she said. “It blew right across the highway and hit a truck in the far lanes of U.S. 70.”
No injuries were reported.
“That was one big piece of metal,” Pawlyshyn said. “Thank goodness I was in a big car. I was lucky.”
Hail flattens spring crop
Sharon Davis had to shovel through a 2-foot-high drift of hail Wednesday night just to get in the front door of her home five miles southeast of Arch.
“We weren’t home when the storm started,” Davis said. “We were in Portales with my mother waiting it out with her.”
When a ranchhand called her about the damage, Davis went home to find a scene far worse than anything she expected.
“It’s just dramatic,” Davis said. “Our pastures are just completely flat and there is not a blade of grass out there. There are no leaves on the trees, not even bark on the trees.”
The storm’s winds knocked out all the windows on both the north and east sides of her house.
“They’re just gone,” she said. “There is glass everywhere in the house. It blew the glass about 40 feet inside the house. It’s just dreadful. The roof shingles are everywhere and there are places where the roof is just bare.”
It even took the paint off the house’s trim work.
“We’ve lived here 30 years and I have never seen anything like this. Never, never, never.”
Arch ranches take a tumble
Other reports of extensive damage from the severe storms continued to pour in from the small Roosevelt County community of Arch.
Curtis Brashears said his son Craig experienced major damage at his ranch about a mile and a half northeast of the Portales cemetery.
“He has several large farm sprinklers down, power line poles down and even a cinder block fence down,” he said. “There’s all kinds of those sprinklers down around Arch. At one place, the power poles fell on top of the sprinklers, so they’re all down.”
The high winds from Wednesday night’s storm also tossed hundreds of tumbleweeds together in one field, making for an unusual sight.
“There are so many tumbleweeds that it looks like a flood zone out there,” Brashears said. “We had a lot of hail damage and a lot of wind damage.”
Shopping a shelter from the storm
Casey Estridge of Portales found out that at least if you’re going to be stranded during a storm, it pays to be somewhere with amenities.
“I went to Wal-Mart in Portales about 8 o’clock and it was about 9 p.m. when it seriously hit,” she said. “Some people left right away. But then they made all the store associates go through all the aisles and have everybody congregate in the middle of the store. They told us a tornado was on the way.”
For an hour and a half, the shoppers and employees waited out the storm.
“They handed out pillows and told us to just take it easy and have a seat because we might be there for awhile,” she said. “They also gave us refreshments, like ice water and juice.”
Estridge, a single mom who was shopping with a friend while her son was in Carlsbad visiting her mother, said the stay inside the store hurt her pocketbook more than anything.
“I went in for lip gloss, but I didn’t even get any,” she said. “Instead, I ended up with a whole new outfit.”
On the way home, Estridge was in for more adventure — and a firsthand lesson about the kindness of strangers.
“I was at an intersection near the Arch Highway and the water went over my hood and the car stalled out,” she said. “Several cars passed us by. But then two 19-year-old boys, Angelo Garcia and Arnis Robbins, offered to help tow us out of the mud and rain with their big truck and even gave us rides home.”
Business up when power is down
For some people, severe weather sometimes means more business after the storm.
Tracy Teel of Powerline Inc. in Roosevelt County said it was ironic that three power poles were toppled in a field directly diagonally across U.S. Highway 70 from his business just northeast of Portales.
The power line contractor and a full crew were out working early Thursday morning trying to repair the damage and restore full power.
“This is a transmission line that carries 69,000 volts of electricity and also feeds a substation across the street,” Teel said. “It’s a Roosevelt County Rural Electric Coop. line and they contract with us to fix it.”
Teel said he expected it would take roughly eight hours to fix the power line poles.
“We’ll have this up today for sure,” he said.
By day’s end, all three power lines were back up and operational.