Tumblelievable

Christian Madden Jr., 2, of Clovis, looks out his window Tuesday to see tumbleweeds piled high blocking the front door of his house. Clovis experienced sustained winds of 38 mph with gusts over 50 mph. (Staff Photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Trapped by an ocean of tumbleweeds, little Christian Madden Jr., 2, pushed aside a curtain and peeked out his window. Wide-eyed, he stared as his father stabbed twiney thistles with a rake, hurled them out of his way, and cleared a tenuous path to his front door and his family inside.

Fierce winds thrashed across Clovis Tuesday at speeds of 52 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Amarillo. Fueled by the gusts, tumbleweeds invaded neighborhoods in west Clovis.

Several homes near U.S. Highway 60/84 were buried.

A chain-link fence around the Madden home made a perfect playpen for the weeds. Around 2 p.m. Tuesday, the door to the home was obstructed by a tangled mass. The senior Christian Madden, 31, said his wife and boys were unable to leave the house.

“What I am supposed to do?” said Madden from his driveway on Sheridan Street, minutes prior to strong-arming his way inside with a rake that already had two tines torn in the battle of tumbleweeds vs. man.

Residents hurled weeds into streets, even as more rolled past.

“They come by the dozen,” Madden said.

Around the corner from the Madden home, the Anaya home, too, disappeared under tumbleweeds. Her car also buried, homeowner Debbie Anaya was trapped.

“I’m stuck,” said Anaya, clattering off a list of errands unrun, her hair aloft in the wind, tumbleweeds scratching at her back.

A Clovis native, Anaya, 47, said Tuesday’s tumbleweed storm is rare, and only one other such storm in Clovis compares. Tumbleweeds, residents said, are a routine nuisance on the bald plains of eastern New Mexico. “It’s frustrating,” said neighbor Arturo Martinez, as he picked his yard clean. “It’s Mother Nature, you know.”
But neighbors agreed such a fierce invasion is unusual.

“I’ve never seen it this bad,” Clovis resident Dejon Ruiz said.

Some blamed the city of Clovis. Some, negligent property owners.

The city, said Madden, imposes fees for unkempt private property, but “have their own mess,” Madden said. “I think they should be responsible.”

“People (in the county) let their weeds grow,” said Dolores Ruiz, who lives near Madden and is not related to Dejon.

Tumbleweeds, she said, “are overpowering the neighborhood. What do you do with them? Just let them keep rolling down the street? How do you put 1,001 tumbleweeds in a bag?”

City officials said they were unaware of the tumbleweed invasion or any complaints when contacted by the Clovis News Journal Tuesday afternoon.

Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas said tumbleweeds are blown into town from outside the city. “I don’t know what we could do to prevent that,” Thomas said.

He said the city does maintain its property, including fields nearby the tumbleweed-stricken neighborhood.

Clovis Public Works Director Harry Wang said his department would be willing to help residents trapped by the weeds, but not in heavy winds.

“There is no need to … because they (tumbleweeds) will come right back. It is just the season,” Wang said.

National Weather Service hydro-meteorologist Tabatha Tripp said a low-pressure system south and east of Albuquerque stirred up Tuesday’s intense winds, which whipped westerly across the high plains. She predicted the winds would taper off this morning.

Most tumbleweeds in New Mexico are Russian thistles, according to Curry County extension agent Stan Jones of New Mexico State University.

The plants break off from their stems once mature. Or die in the cold weather, Jones said.

“Then,” he said, “they tumble across the country” and spread seeds along the way.