Strong, gusty winds caused a major power outage Wednesday evening from around 5:30 p.m. until 9: 30 p.m.
The power went out for most of the eastern half of Tucumcari east of First Street and north to Main Street. Tucumcari’s Fire Chief, Mike Cherry, said the winds reached speeds in excess of 50 m.p.h. “I have a device here that recorded a speed of 56 m.p.h.,” said Cherry, and the airport recorded the same wind speed.” Cherry said no injuries resulted from the winds and a damaged utility pole behind Casa de la Hope on South First Street.
Around 5:30 p.m. a strong gust of wind tore large sections of roofing material off the Casa de la Hope building. Debris from the roof damaged a primary power line system according to Bill Crenshaw, spokesperson for Xcel Energy.
“Debris from the Casa de la Hope building fell on a power line that was part of a primary feeder,” said Crenshaw. “That caused one of the lines to be burned in two. That was the primary cause of the power outage.”
Bea Laredo, Director of Casa de la Hope, was inside the building when the winds picked up. “I was inside and I heard a loud roaring of wind,” said Laredo, “I thought to myself, “I hope that wasn’t the roof.” Xcel’s Crenshaw said that approximately 500 utility customers were affected by the power outage. Fire Department Chief Cherry said he thought the number of affected customers was higher than 500 because of the large area the blackout covered.
Tucumcari’s motels on the east side of town had to try to conduct business without the aid of electricity and computers for several hours Wednesday evening. Evelyn Verplancken, Front Desk Manager at Holiday Inn, said her staff had to break out candles.
“We gave our customers candles,” said Verplancken.” The electronic key cards were not working, so we had our maintenance workers escort guests to their rooms and let them in.” Verplancken said the motel guests were very understanding. “People told us we handled the power outage really well,” she said. “We adjusted the room rates accordingly. Our business was down, probably due to the power being out. We would normally have been full, but we had just a little over half our usual occupancy.” Debbie Lafferty, Human Resources director for Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital, said that the hospital’s back-up generators did not skip a beat.
“We had no major problems other than our x-ray machine was down for awhile,” said Lafferty. “Our generators worked fine, giving us our normal amount of power and lighting.”
The Tucumcari Fire Chief said there was other damage besides the damage done in the vicinity of Casa de la Hope.
“Large tree limbs were blown into streets and a boat on a trailer fell over, but no other major damage occurred,” said Cherry. “Fortunately, we (the firefighters) had help from other city workers to direct traffic around town.”