My Storm Chase Recap & Thoughts On Monday's Severe Weather.

Near Dexter, NM Monday, May 7, 2012.
Courtesy of Terri Cox Clemmons.

My May 7, 2012 Chase Recap.

I went storm chasing this past Monday. Initially I ended up west of Hope at the junction of US Hwy 82 & State Road 13. A supercell thunderstorm had already produced quarter size hail 6 miles north-northwest of Dunken by 3 PM MDT. At 3:30 PM MDT a spotter reported golf ball size hail 18 miles northeast of Dunken. So I knew this was going to be an interesting storm to chase.

This supercell thunderstorm split just west of my location. The northern storm started marching east just north of US Hwy 82 towards the Hope area. The southern storm was tracking east right down US Hwy 82. I slowly worked the southern storm back east towards Hope and eventually to Artesia. I kept thinking that I should break away from the southern storm and go after the northern storm. I didn't, instead I stayed with the southern storm, and stayed up ahead of it or just east of it all of the way into Artesia. By then it was too late to try and play catch up to the northern storm.By the time I was nearing Artesia again, and the northern storm was in the process of dropping half dollar size hail in the Cottonwood area, and then a little bit later it produced golf ball size hail in Cottonwood, as well as at the junction of US Hwy 285 and State Road 2 (the Lake Arthur Highway) north of Artesia.

I could have chased the northern storm, and believe me I so wanted too. But I made a decision to stay with the southern storm because at the time it looked like it was coming directly into Artesia. I also had two new Skywarn Net Controllers on duty at the Midland National Weather Service Office. I felt obligated to stay in Eddy County instead of taking off to Chaves County, and help them (via amateur radio and cell phone) with our spotter group and the storms that were ongoing in Eddy County.

There were additional supercell thunderstorms blowing up across Eddy County, so I took off to the south towards the Lakewood and Seven Rivers area. As I was headed south, down south 13th street south of Artesia, I encountered a developing haboob in Atoka that was moving south towards the Lakewood and Seven Rivers area. You can view my pictures of the haboob and my other chase photos taken on Monday via this link.

I had been monitoring the Chaves County Skywarn Groups conservation on amateur radio, and it was very apparent that things were getting a little tense up there. This happens during severe weather, working Net Control can be very stressful and hard work at times. Jim Tucker (the Chaves County Coordinator) and his group had their hands full, or at least that's what it sounded like to me. From what I could tell they were doing a good job. I was having lots of problems with their Skywarn amateur radio frequency (146.980). There signal kept fading in and out and I never could make contact with them. I may have been too far west of Hope to hit their repeater, or my radio may have been acting up. Another reason I decided to stay put in Eddy County.

MY Reflections & Thoughts About Monday's Tornadoes.

When I started seeing all of the photos of the tornadoes on Facebook yesterday, I kicked myself a little bit for not heading up into Chaves County, and chasing those supercell thunderstorms that produced the tornadoes. But then I got to thinking about it and in a way I am glad that I did not go up there.


From the time that I first started watching our local weather and chasing storms as a teenager growing up in Artesia, and continuing right on up to now, I have been trying to convince our local population of the dangers of our severe weather. Many many times this has fallen on deaf ears. This is especially true when I start trying to convince people of the tornado threat we have from time to time. I have been laughed at so many times I have lost count. I have been accused of making up stories about our past weather, actually some people have flat out called me a liar. For years I have been ridiculed, laughed at, and ignored. When I was younger this bothered me. Not anymore, at least not the way it used too.

With the advent of cell phone and smart phone cameras, facebook, twitter, You Tube, and other social media outlets, more and more people are starting to share their photos. videos, and stories of our local weather events. I love it. In the past the people who didn't believe me and others could argue that it was just our stories that we were making up. They accused me and other spotters/storm chasers of either exaggerating or lying about what we were seeing. They can't do this now. Those days are over. Modern technology is changing the game. More and more people are sharing what other storm spotters, storm chasers, and myself have witnessed for years.

A Change Has Occurred In Our Local Weather.

Our weather has changed this week, at least for now we are seeing a pattern change. Thunderstorms have returned to southeastern New Mexico. Monday's outbreak of severe weather was a little tap on the shoulder from mother nature warning us that she does not always play nice.

Severe thunderstorms are no strangers to southeastern New Mexico (especially supercell thunderstorms). They can, and often do, pose a variety of hazards when they strike, These hazards range from the occasional tornado, to heavy rains and flash flooding, high winds, and deadly cloud to ground lighting strikes. Southeastern New Mexico has a long documented history of severe weather (based on past newspaper articles and spotter storm reports) and flash flooding.

Once again it appears that we dodged another bullet with this past Monday's severe weather outbreak. I am not trying to minimize the wind and hail damage that occurred in some places, what I am saying is thankfully we didn't have anyone hurt or killed from these storms. Whether or not the Hobbs storm produced a tornado or not is still unknown, at least to me at the time of this writing.

What is very clear is that the damage in the Hobbs subdivision was the result of a supercell thunderstorm crossing over a populated community. Bad things always happens when one of these dangerous storms move over a populated area. This can include large hail, damaging thunderstorm wind gusts, heavy rain and flash flooding, the occasional tornado, and deadly cloud to ground lightning strikes, and sometimes all of the above.

As for you folks in the Dexter, Midway, and Bottomless Lakes State Park areas, you were also lucky, very lucky this past Monday, May 7th, 2012. As far as I know these tornadoes touched down in open fields and missed the populated areas. This is going to happen form time to time here. There is far more open space than there are populated areas across southeastern New Mexico.

But mark my word, and remember this, one of these days our stroke of good luck is going to run out. Laugh if yo want too, ignore me if you choose, it still will not change the fact that one of these days our good luck is going to vanish in the wind.

Some day, I can't tell you when, or exactly where, but one of these supercell thunderstorms is going to roll over a populated area here in southeastern New Mexico and cause a lot of damage, personal pain and suffering. It has happened several times before in the past and it will happen again. History will repeat itself.

This time, due to the increase in our local population which is spreading out into the rural areas more and more with time, we are going to take a direct hit from a tornado in a populated area. When this happens the damage and potential for injuries and deaths will be higher than in the past due to our growing population, many of whom live in mobile homes and mobile home parks. We also have more people living in apartment complexes than in the past. There are more hotels, churches, restaurants, schools, shopping centers, movie theaters, and large industrial type businesses than we have had in the past. We simply have more places for more people to congregate, and when you combine this with an approaching supercell thunderstorm, bad things can happen.

Someday one of these supercell thunderstorms is going to produce a significant tornado (a strong and large tornado, not a weak and small one) that is going to touch down, not in an open field, or out in the middle of the boonies, but in a populated area, or in one of communities.Trust me It will not be pretty when this happens.

One of these days the residents of southeastern New Mexico may see the kind of destruction in one of our communities that we watch on TV when these same type of storms strike the South, or the Midwest, or anywhere else in tornado alley. One of these days this could be one of our communities that will be on TV, picking up the pieces of our homes, businesses, churches, and lives after a strong tornado rolls through one of our cities or towns. It is simply just a matter of time, and our time is running out. We have been playing a game of Russia Roulette with our weather for far too long, and that is going to come back and haunt us some day.

Why Do People Ignore Our Severe Weather Threats In SE NM?

I know that these statements are controversial and not popular with many people who live here. No doubt many of you will either laugh at me, or simply do what you have done all along, and that is to continue to ignore me and go on with your lives as usual.

We have a dangerous mindset that is ingrained in peoples lives here in southeastern New Mexico. Most of the local population here simply believes that a large and strong tornado will never hit one of our communities or towns. They refuse to accept this eventuality, they will not embrace it and prepare for it before it happens because of this mindset. I have heard this all of my life...We Do Not Have Tornadoes In Chaves County or Eddy County. Lea County does, and so does west Texas, but not here.

Because this is what we have heard over and over and over for years. This is what our parents, grandparents, and friends have taught us. We have been told that we do not have tornadoes in southeastern New Mexico, and the ones that we do occasionally have, always touch down in open country. We believe what we hear and are told.

Most importantly, because a destructive tornado has not leveled one of our communities, causing millions of dollars of damage, and injuring or killing a lot of people, people cannot relate to the potential threat from these tornadoes. They cannot wrap their brains around this thought because a lot of them have never seen or experienced an event like this. I have yet to find a recorded document in all of my historical searches through our local newspapers that says that somebody has died in southeastern New Mexico from a tornado. Flash flooding is another story. We have lost a lot of people to flash flooding. It blows my mind every time we have thunderstorms that produce heavy rains and flash flooding, and I hear about somebody being rescued from a flooded arroyo. Turn Around...Don't Drown!

We Forget About Our History...And History Does Repeat Itself.

How many of you have head about the October 9, 1938 tornado that injured 14 people south of Carlsbad, most of them children?

Have you read the account or remember the June 18, 1949 tornado that damaged the southern side of Artesia?

Do you remember the July 5, 1981 tornado that hit the Carlsbad High School and nearby areas?

Who remembers the September 1, 1983 tornado that touched down on south first street in Artesia and caused all of the damage?

Do you remember the May 31st, 1991 tornado that touched down on Wagon Wheel Road south of Carlsbad and cut a damage path that was nearly one quarter of a mile wide and one mile long? There were 21 injuries with that tornado, 10 of those folks were treated at the hospital. 57 homes and buildings were damaged or destroyed, 13 mobile homes were demolished.

Or the following year when this event occurred, the June 7, 1992 tornado that went right down Church street in Carlsbad and injured 6 people having dinner at the Taco Bell restaurant?

The ones who remember these storms are the ones whose lives those events touched and changed. To just about everyone else, these are now just stories that they hear occasionally. We simply have not endured the kind of life changing destruction, injuries and death that large destructive tornadoes have the potential to cause here in southeastern New Mexico. We haven't personally felt and endured the type of pain and suffering that these storms produce, not here locally.

Therefore its really hard for our local population to relate to this potential, and prepare properly for its eventual occurrence. These events are life changers, and our local population does not have the first hand personal experience to fall back upon. Mentally most of our population is not prepared, nor do they understand the threat, not to the point of being able to change how they think about tornadoes, and their potential threat to their lives in southeastern New Mexico.

I get asked quite often what will it take to change peoples minds here about our severe weather. I would like to think that the photos, videos, old newspaper articles, storm damage reports, spotter reports, and blogs like this one will help. I hope they do.

What I really believe is that the only way that the overall thinking here is really going to change, is when someday a tornado rolls though one of our populated areas and injures, and perhaps kills a lot of people, then we will see a mindset change. I hope not, I really hope that I am wrong, but fear that I am not. I am not a doomsday prophet, or some off the wall fanatic. I view life from a simple and realistic way. I also say what I think, and mean what I say.

What Are My Intentions In Writing This?

I am not trying to scare anyone or threaten anyone. I have no hidden agenda. I am not playing some sick game to get attention or recognination. It is not my goal or intention to embarrass anyone, point fingers at anyone, or play the blame game, there are no hidden agendas that I am working on.

I am just being honest and truthful, and I am willing to state publicly what many here do not want to hear. I am not trying to cause panic or stir up trouble. I am simply trying to get our local population to think about what could happen to them, their friends, and loved ones some day, when ones of these destructive tornadoes rolls through one of our communities instead of bouncing around out in the open countryside as they have done many times over the past.

I am 54 years old and have spent my life watching and researching our local weather, chasing our storms, and doing my level best to educate and inform our local population of what I have personally witnessed, and experienced over all of these years.

Prepare Yourself.

I have a great deal of faith and confidence in our local National Weather Service Offices (Midland & Albuquerque), I trust the staff and forecasters in these offices. I know some of them personally, and I have a long history of submitting my storm spotting and severe weather reports with them. I know that they care about us here in southeastern New Mexico as well as across the rest of the state. I know how hard they work to keep our local population informed and warned during severe weather outbreaks. They are not perfect....nobody including myself is perfect when it comes to trying to figure out the sometimes fickle antics of our weather.

I also trust our local spotter groups. I have become friends with many of our local spotters and chasers and greatly value their friendship and spotter reports. They risk their lives every time they venture out into a storm. They risk their lives and property so that they can give our local National Weather Service Offices ground truth information about what a storm is doing in real time. Our local National Weather Service Office Forecasters then take this valuable information, combine it with Doppler Radar Data, and other information, and issue the appropriate warning for our communities.

If you the general public heed these warnings, if you react properly to these warnings and do not ignore them, then hopefully someday we can prevent a potentially devastating tragedy from happening here in southeastern Ne Mexico. Severe thunderstorms are going to happen again, some day tornadoes will once again touch down across southeastern New Mexico. It may not be today, but it will happen, and when it does, I hope that you, your loved ones, and friends are prepared.

Now Is The Time To Prepare.

If you live in southeastern New Mexico and do not own a NOAA Weather Radio, then it is my recommendation that you buy one. These radios should be placed in your homes, schools, churches, and businesses. These life saving devices should be located anyplace where there is the potential for a gathering of a group of people. By doing this you may save not only your life, but the life of your loved ones and friends some day.

Years ago the National Weather Service used to tell us....During Tornadoes, Seconds Save Lives. I wish they would go back to using this slogan again. When a tornado is bearing down upon a community, sadly it is true, but you may only have a few minutes or seconds to get to a place of safety. NOAA Weather Radio will allow you to have those precious minutes and seconds before the storm strikes.

I think that another important resource to have is this new mobile app for smart phones that the National Weather Service has come out with. It will give you the very latest, up to date current conditions, forecasts, radar, satellite, watch and warning information for any location you are in.

Here is the mobile app link for the weather in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Here is the generic mobile app link. Copy these browser links into your smart phones and see the results.

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