Roswell and surrounding areas saw some intense weather over the weekend, including a tornado that a local storm chaser said touched down for five minutes about 15 miles north of Roswell and two-inch hailstones that were reported at Lake Arthur, Dexter and the Roswell Correctional Center.
The tornado was spotted Saturday and an amateur video of the storm was broadcast by Albuquerque TV stations.
Skies were cloudy and temperatures were cool throughout the day Sunday. Then the storm activity fired up around 5 p.m., said Tim Shy, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.
Shy said the size of the hail increased rapidly as the storm progressed, until egg-size hailstones were pelted from the sky around 6 p.m.
“There was quite a bit of hail for Chaves County,” he said.
Fortunately, there were no reports of serious injury or death in any of the storms that raged over the weekend throughout the state, Shy said. The Roswell Fire Department also had no reports of injuries or serious property damage.
“It’s always a relief to us (at the NWS) when there’s no deaths or significant injuries,” Shy said.
An egg-size hailstone can pack quite a wallop, Shy said.
“To give you a perspective of the impact, a hail stone that big is traveling 60 to 70 mph. If you got hit, it would be like getting hit by a pitch from a major league pitcher.”
Shy said the mission of the NWS is to protect life and property, and in achieving that goal the service relies heavily on volunteers like amateur radio operators and weather spotters.
“We have a lot of fancy gadgets here at the weather service in Albuquerque but nothing beats a pair of eyeballs and a well-trained brain,” he said. “We had many spotters call us.”
Also called ham radio, amateur radio operators use a designated radio frequency spectra for purposes of private recreation, non-commercial exchange of messages and emergency communication.
Shy said ham operators in Chaves County are well-trained and stand out head and shoulders above their peers in the state.
Shy said he is an amateur radio operator, and that’s what got him interested in working for the NWS.
An obvious downside to all the rain the area has had in recent weeks is an explosion in the mosquito population.
The good side, Shy said, is the official total for 2014 at the Roswell International Air Center is now 5.3 inches.
“You guys are doing great,” Shy said. “That’s two inches more than usual for this time of year. It’s a welcome change for you guys, you have been running a deficit for years.”
Shy said Sunday’s storm passed directly over the airport, where a half-inch of rain was reported. At Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, the total was a quarter of an inch. The Roswell Daily Record’s gauge logged one-tenth of an inch.