2011 Skywarn Spotter Training Classes & My Thoughts.

Artesia, NM Skywarn Spotter Training Class.

 Midland National Weather Service Warning 
Coordination Meteorologist Pat Vesper.
Midland National Weather Service Warning 
Coordination Meteorologist Pat Vesper.

Roswell, NM Skywarn Spotter Training Class.

Albuquerque National Weather Service Warning
Coordination Meteorologist Kerry Jones.
Albuquerque National Weather Service
Meteorologist Daniel Porter.
Albuquerque National Weather Service
Meteorologist Daniel Porter & Warning
Coordination Meteorologist Kerry Jones.


Our first Eddy County Skywarn Spotter Training meeting kicked off in Artesia this past Monday night. A total of 16 people attended. This was down a little from the past couple of years. Our second class was held in Carlsbad Tuesday night and there were 17 people in attendance. This was about half as many people that attended last year. I will have to go back and check but there have been some 160 or so people in Eddy County sign up for our Skywarn Spotter Program in the past six years. Thats actually pretty good considering the population of the county.

Chaves County Officials kicked off their Skywarn Spotter Training meetings yesterday in Roswell. The afternoon meeting had 22 people in attendance, and the evening meeting had 45. I remember the first meeting that was held in Roswell back in the early 1980's had only one person show up. I was telling Kerry Jones and Daniel Porter yesterday that we are at the peak of our Skywarn Programs here in Chaves and Eddy Counties, its never been this good before. 

Jim Tucker is the new Chaves County Skywarn Coordinator. He is talking over for Tommy Dow. Tommy took over after Alfred Lindsey retired and moved to Las Cruces a couple of years ago. I miss working Skywarn Nets with Alfred and Tommy...both of them did a great job and I have nothing but respect for them. Thanks gentlemen for all that you done for the Skywarn programs in Chaves County.

I am very proud to be the Eddy/Culberson County Skywarn Coordinator...and as well as being the Regional Skywarn Coordinator for 26 of the counties that the Midland National Weather Service Office has forecast and warning responsibilities for.

We have a great group of people who are willing to give up their time and money in order to help protect our communities during times of severe weather. From the bottom of my heart I would like to thank each and every one of you West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico Skywarn Spotters, and Amateur Radio Operators for all that you do!

You do a great service for our communities, and are a very valuable resource of information for the National Weather Service and our local Emergency Management Offices. Your reports are what validates the National Weather Service Warnings that are issued for our area, and your reports give those warnings creditable meaning. Again, thank you for being a Skywarn Storm Spotter in Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas.

Some Thoughts & Comments.

After watching the recent tragic events unfold in Japan, and given the fact that we are fast approaching our severe weather season, I thought that it was time to cover some things that are on my mind. 

Severe weather in southeastern New Mexico is a mostly hit and miss deal, most of the time it is more miss than hit. Meaning, that most our severe thunderstorms occurs out in open country and usually miss our populated communities. We have lots of open country, miles and miles of it. Or as I love to tell newcomers...we have miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles. 

This is important because I think that this is part of the apathy problem that we have here locally concerning severe weather. The simple fact is that we can go years without a significant severe weather event that produces property damage and injurers people. Our last significant event was the flash flooding that occurred in the Carlsbad area on April 3rd and 4th, 2004.

It is not unusual for somebody in southeastern New Mexico to experience severe weather nearly every year. For example the folks in Hobbs may have one or two hail events in a year, while the folks in Roswell, Artesia, and Carlsbad may not. 

Then there are those years when just about everybody experiences some type of severe weather. This can be large hail (hail has to be the size of quarters in order to classify the thunderstorm that is producing it to be severe), severe thunderstorm wind gusts (a thunderstorms wind gust must be at least 58 mph or stronger, in order for that thunderstorm to be classified as severe), flash flooding, or the relatively rare tornado. The really bad events can contain all of these elements and sometimes more than one of our communities are impacted.

Everybody loves talking about the weather...and as Kerry mentioned in the Roswell meetings yesterday, the weatherman. This is ok, it comes with the job. But when I bring up severe weather to people I know and meet here locally, I get a lot of funny looks, and comments along the line that we really don't have a serious problem with severe weather here in southeastern New Mexico. 

Did you know that as far as I can find, we have never (knock on wood) had a death from a tornado in Eddy, Chaves, or Lea Counties. However, according to the local newspaper articles that I have researched, flash floods have killed over 30 people here locally in the past 100 or so years. There have been at least a half a dozen deaths from lightning strikes as well across southeastern New Mexico.

So you are probably thinking, what is the big deal, why do I keep hammering away at severe weather and its potential threats every year? 

Well this year marks the 38th year that I have been involved with the National Weather Service Skywarn Programs here in Eddy County. I started calling storm reports into the Albuquerque National Weather Service Office way back in 1973 when I was only 15 years old. Thats also when I started storm chasing here locally too.

I don't mean brag, but a lot of the storm reports in Eddy County that you will find at these links (Tornadoes In SE NM & W TX ), (Severe Weather Reports In SE NM), were submitted by me over the years, especially from the early 1980's until now. Please do not think that I am trying to take the credit for all of these reports, I am not. I am just trying to get those of you who read this that I have seen a lot of severe weather here locally, over a 38 year period. I think that I have a pretty good handle on our severe weather setup, and I am doing everything that I can to educate our local population of the dangers that these storms pose to us. 

I have seen a lot of nasty supercell thunderstorms roam across the plains of southeastern New Mexico in the past 38 years. I have seen around a dozen tornadoes, in Roosevelt, Chaves, Eddy, Lea and Lincoln Counties. These are the ones I have spotted myself, not seen on somebody else's video or photo. A lot of people I know laugh at me when I tell them this...and frankly I think that some of them flat out right don't believe me. According to the records we average about a half dozen to a dozen tornadoes every year in eastern and southeastern New Mexico.

I have lost count of the flash floods, high wind events, hailstorms, and intense lightning storms I have seen and experienced. My family lost everything that we owned during the major flash flood event that occurred in Artesia in the early 1960's. I was only five years old at the time but I still remember parts of that event.

My brother was picked up by a tornado and was nearly killed in Atoka back in the early 1970's. My mother watched in horror from her bathroom window as the tornado picked him up and flung around the back of our house. The tornado blew part of the roof of our home off, drove a tree limb that was a foot in diameter through our living room roof and embedded it in our couch, blew out windows, and ripped the front door off, blew down power lines, and wiped out a quarter of a mile wide section of our alfalfa hay field as it traveled off to the northeast. Other nearby homes suffered damage as well.

A Limited Historical Review.

I was the contract weather on duty at the Carlsbad Airport on May 31, 1991 when an EF2 tornado touched down just south of Wagon Wheel road south of Carlsbad, and cut a damage path that was 285 yards wide and a mile long. It totally destroyed 13 mobile homes (some of them were double wides) and damaged 57 other buildings and homes. It injured 21 people and sent 10 of them to the hospital. I watched this tornado form and touch down from the Carlsbad Airport. Go to the bottom of my web page to my photo slideshow to view the pictures that I took of the damage to those mobile homes.

One year later I again was again the contract weather observer on duty at the Carlsbad Airport on June 7, 1992 when another EF2 tornado went right down Church Street and through downtown Carlsbad. It injured 6 people who were having dinner in the Taco Bell restaurant at the time. I didn't see that tornado because it was wrapped up in the rain and hail. But I did measure a wind gust at the airport of 76 knots, or 87 mph, when the rear flank downdraft crossed over the airport. 

On May 11, 1970 a monster EF5 tornado ripped through Lubbock, Texas around 9:30 pm, and stayed on the ground for a little over 30 minutes. It killed 26 people and injured more than 1500. Ten thousand automobiles were damaged or destroyed, 119 aircraft were demolished at the airport, the tornado damaged a 15 square mile area. Some 600 apartment units were demolished, 250 businesses were damaged or destroyed, 8,800 family units were damaged and 430 of them were destroyed, and 80% of all of the plate glass windows in downtown Lubbock were blown out. I was 12 years old and will always remember that day. You could easily see that supercell thunderstorm from Artesia, and after the sun set the lightning show was unbelievable. 

On May 22, 1987 a multiple-vortex EF4 tornado killed 30 people in Saragosa, Texas and injured  121 others. 22 of the deaths occurred in the Saragosa Hall where a Kindergarten graduation ceremony was taking place, 16 of those killed did not live in Saragosa. Once again I was working as the contract weather observer at the Carlsbad Airport, and watched this monster supercell thunderstorm form off to my distant southeast. I will never forget that day either. 

My Point.

History has proven that deadly tornadoes have struck nearby and killed and injured people. Last year on May 14th an EF3 tornado touched down near Notrees, which is located west of Odessa, Texas. It didn't kill or injure anybody because it touched down in the middle of nowhere. That was the strongest tornado ever recorded in Ector County, Texas.

I have long believed that one of these days an EF2, EF3, or God forbid an EF4 or EF5 tornado will strike one of our communities here in southeastern New Mexico. If this happens then there is a possibility that it could kill and injure a number of people. I believe that it is really just a matter of time. I have no idea when this will occur or where. I can guarantee you that most people absolutely do not believe that this is a real possibility here in southeastern New Mexico. It is amazing to me to see how many people don't even believe we have tornadoes here, much less the fact that we could potentially take a direct hit again some day.

 I am not a doomsday prophet, nor am I a thrill seeker, I am not crazy, and I am not trying to scare you, but I am trying to help you realize that there really are some very dangerous storms out there at times, and one of these days somebody in southeastern New Mexico is going to take a direct hit. Our luck will run out some day and I think that it will be a sad day when it happens.

NOAA Weather Radio.

How many of you have NOAA Weather Radios in your homes, businesses, or schools that your children and grandchildren attend? During really bad storms one of the first things to fail during severe weather is your power supply, your electricity. So if you are depending upon the Weather Channel, the internet, or the Albuquerque News stations to keep you informed, you will literary be in the dark.This very well may happen before the worst of the storm is even at your location. Then  you are clueless with what is going on with that severe thunderstorm unless your are a trained and experienced storm spotter.

Most brands of NOAA Weather Radios now have a battery backup available in them. This is your most direct source of local severe weather information coming from the Albuquerque and Midland National Weather Service Offices. If you do not own one I strongly suggest that you purchase one for you and your loved ones! Our severe weather season is rapidly approaching and now is the time to prepare.

When a warning for severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and flash floods are issued by these offices, then you get that warning immediately. You might want to buy one if you already do not own one. Walmart carries them, Radio Shack carries them, and you can buy them on line via the internet. Just do a Google search for NOAA Weather Radio dealers.

Severe Weather Safety Tips.

Please visit these links to learn more about how you can protect yourself, and your family and loved ones during times of severe weather here in southeastern New Mexico.

The Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction!


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