Tumbleweed invasion getting early start

By Emily Crowe
CNJ staff writer

Eastern New Mexico has its fair share of nuisances, and tumbleweeds have cropped up as an issue much earlier than usual this year.

Tumbleweeds, also known as Russian thistle, are creating problems for landowners and motorists trying to navigate county roads in the face of Sunday’s gusty winds.

Curry County Road Superintendent Steve Reed said he has seen the worst tumbleweeds north of Melrose, where a landowner was blocked in on her property and couldn’t get out because of a pile-up of the plants.

“We do have some county roads that have been blocked and some that have got quite a few in the ditches,” Reed said. “We sent a special crew out this morning after the big blow (Sunday) trying to clear some.”

Winds topped out Sunday at 49 mph at Cannon Air Force Base and 46 mph at the Clovis Municipal Airport, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist David Craft.

Reed said the county will also have crews out later in the week smashing up and trying to shred weeds that remain. He encouraged calls from residents still experiencing problems navigating county roads.

“Especially if the county roads are blocked, we’d appreciate them giving us a call to let us know,” he said.

According to Juan Dominguez with the Roosevelt County Road Department, the tumbleweeds have gotten thick throughout the county, but especially west and south of Floyd.

“With the windy days it’s gotten pretty big here,” Dominguez said of the issue. “Most of our equipment is out crushing weeds or pushing them down.”

Luther Dunlap, Curry County extension agent, believes the recent heavy winds are the main culprit behind the current tumbleweed issue in the area.

“We did get more moisture this last spring and summer than we’ve had in Curry County for the last two or three years, so that’s part of the issue,” he said. “We’re having a little bit more wind a little earlier this year, so they’re starting to blow.”

As far as controlling the tumbleweeds, Dunlap recommended mowing along fence lines to stop the weeds from spreading.

“I’ve heard of some people in the county laying their fences down so it doesn’t pile up on the fence line as much,” Dunlap said, though he knows this solution would not be as easy for residents with many acres of land.

Dunlap said the best way to control the spread of tumbleweeds is to control their growth in the spring and summer.

“The more we control them when they’re actually growing and going through their lifecycle,” he said, “the better off we’ll be.”

The National Weather Service does anticipate a few breezes this week, but nothing nearly as strong as what the area saw Sunday.