Official: ‘Small’ tornado was spotted south of Clovis

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Storm clouds darken the sky over Texico and Clovis Tuesday afternoon.

CNJ staff

Real life alert sirens sounded in Clovis for the first time since the March 23, 2007, tornado.

Funnel clouds were spotted Tuesday south of Clovis but apparently moved through the area without causing damage.

Aside from weekly tests on Wednesday afternoons, it is only in the event of a tornado warning the sirens are used, according to Curry County Emergency Management Executive Director Ken De Los Santos.

“Today was a good reminder without having to suffer any major damage,” he said.

A tornado warning is issued, he said, when a tornado is either seen in person, or on radar.

De Los Santos said a “small” tornado was spotted about 3:15 p.m. about 10 miles south of Clovis and was headed in a northeasterly direction. He said there was another spotted in Texico, but was not sure if that meant two separate tornadoes or two spottings of the same tornado.

Sirens sounded throughout the city for more than an hour, during the warning period, he said.

“That’s going to be a rarity that we’re under a tornado warning for that long,” he said.

The alert sirens, controlled by emergency dispatchers, are an outdoor warning for city residents to seek cover. They don’t sound in the county, he said, explaining residents indoors or in the county may not hear them.

Emergency tornado alerts are also given by TV and radio media and on NOAA weather radios.

At 2:51 p.m., the National Weather Service Doppler radar indicated a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado 11 miles south of Clovis, about 11 miles northeast of Portales, moving north at 15 mph.

The NWS advised residents to leave automobiles and mobile homes, move into an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and stay away from windows and outside walls.

The tornado warning was lifted about 3:45 p.m.

A severe thunderstorm watch remained in effect until 9 p.m. for east central New Mexico.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church opened up its basement as a shelter for Clovis residents.

De Los Santos said there are no established shelter sites in the community, though some churches and other entities may open their doors to residents in need of refuge.

“There aren’t any public shelters for tornadoes, we don’t have anywhere large enough to put everybody. That’s why we tell people to do advance planning,” he said.

Families are encouraged to pre-plan what they will do in the event of a tornado, including establishing a rally point or safe locations where family members will go.

Residents who live in mobile homes are advised to seek shelter in a safe location elsewhere, he said.

De Los Santos said there were no reports of damage from Tuesday’s storm, though he said reports from rural areas, such as crop damage, could surface by today.