Tornado season on its way for New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma

Mar. 18—The National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) says, "Remember, tornadoes can happen at any time of the year."

While the NSSL in Norman, Oklahoma, a division of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), says on their website tornado season in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Texas is from May until early June, the tornado that hit Clovis that killed two people, injured 33 and caused $16.5 million in property damage happened March 23, 2007.

The National Weather Service (NWS), another division of NOAA, also has a tornado safety section on their website.

The NWS advises area residents to be aware of tornado watches and warnings.

A tornado watch advises residents to be prepared. The watch means tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. They go on to note to be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued.

A tornado warning means it's time to take action, according to the NWS.

The warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

It's advised to move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building, avoid windows. Those who live in mobile homes or are outside are advised to get into what the NWS termed as "a substantial building."

Clovis' emergency management Director Dan Heerding said the city's 12 outdoor warning sirens don't necessarily sound when a NWS tornado warning has been issued.

"If there is a direct and imminent threat to the city they're activated," Heerding said. "Their function is to warn citizens to get inside and get information from their favorite news source."

Heerding talked about relying on many people from various agencies to watch the sky for danger in the time of a tornado.

"Radar doesn't actually spot a tornado," Heerding said. "It can spot the 'hook' that usually indicates the presence of a tornado, radar can spot the debris in the air from a tornado, but we need eyes on the sky to spot one."

Heerding said police, fire department personnel, volunteer firefighters in the county, amateur radio operators, sheriff's deputies, and mail carriers help with tornado watching.

Heerding said NOAA personnel from Albuquerque will be in town April 27 to hold a "Skywarn class," which is an instructional session on weather watching techniques.

"The class is free," Heerding said. "It'll be at 6 p.m. that night at the Clovis-Carver Library. First come first seated."

The NWS Albuquerque website has details of weather events in the state going back for years, including the tornado of March 2007.

The NWS records detail a tornado that came from "an unusually early and intense outbreak of severe storms with large hail and tornadoes" occurring across east central and southeast New Mexico during the afternoon and evening of March 23. "The episode produced a number of large hail events from Roswell to Tucumcari and peaked with multiple tornadoes from near Tatum north to Clovis and northeast of Tucumcari," according to the record.

The tornado developed in Roosevelt County north of Arch and continued northwest into Curry County then on to southern and east central sections of Clovis.

NWS analysis of the tornado indicated it appeared to wane from an EF2 with windspeeds of 120 mph in Roosevelt County to an EF1 with windspeed of 100 mph as it moved north into Curry County along Highway 70 where damage was limited to power lines and farm irrigation equipment.

The NWS report details of the intensity of the tornado picked up again to EF2 level with a 125 mph velocity as it traveled from about 4 miles south of Clovis northward into southeast Clovis which sustained the heaviest and most consistent damage as indicated by structural damage and downed power poles. The tornado moved into the city where there was more damage to residences, commercial buildings and power lines.

The NWS report estimated the tornado's Average width was estimated at 200 yards.

The NWS report said about 500 homes and other facilities sustained at least some damage ranging from complete destruction of mobile homes in southeast Clovis and wall collapse at several businesses along Highway 60/84 to the loss of roof shingles and roof top air conditioning units.

The NWS report detailed how 35 people suffered treatment injuries including five that required hospitalization.

The NWS report noted two elderly citizens died later from injuries sustained during the event making these the first tornado fatalities in New Mexico since October 1974 when one person died when a tornado touched down in Valencia County.

Since that March 2007 tornado there have been 16 tornado touchdowns in Curry and Roosevelt counties, none with notable property damage or injuries: In June 2007 there were two tornadoes near Elida and Pep, and in May 2010 a tornado was spotted near Pleasant Hill and another near Cameo in Roosevelt County. In June 2012 tornadoes were spotted near Floyd and Dora, a tornado was spotted near Ranchvale. In June 2014, one near Milnesand in Roosevelt County, and in May 2015, near Tolar west of Melrose in September 2016, in July 2017 a twister was spotted near Broadview, in May 2019 three tornadoes were spotted in southern Roosevelt County, two days after Christmas 2019 a tornado was seen near Ranchvale, a twister near Pleasant Hill was reported in March 2020 and one near Melrose was noted in May 2021.