Some say emergency plan fell short during storm

By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

After experiencing Wednesday night’s threatening storm and tornado warning, several local families say the city should activate its warning sirens and have an emergency plan to provide shelter.

“There was bad weather and people didn’t know where to go or what to do,” said Martha Sandoval. “Nowadays with more tornadoes coming around you’ve got to be prepared … I think there should be something open.”

The city’s sirens don’t work, and for people who don’t watch TV, “who’s going to alert them?” Sandoval said.

Another family, the Laredoes did not have a basement and were unsure where to go.

Vicky Laredo said, “The TV said we had 10 minutes … We grabbed the kids and went to the basement of the rec center. The basement was terrible. There was trash, there was nowhere to sit, no water, no flashlights. We were extremely unhappy.”

Laredo said she and her husband, Joseph, also had their elderly parents, who range in age from 75 to 85, with them.

The families also said that they called the central dispatch center and could not get any information about where to go.

Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry said the storm, which hit north of Tucumcari, prompted many distress calls ranging from a truck that was thought to have rolled over in a canal to reports of fires north of town.

Dispatchers were fielding numerous calls and police, EMS and firefighters were responding to those calls.

The city doesn’t have an appropriate storm shelter, and that’s why no facility was designated, Cherry said.

Those people who took shelter in the city’s Recreational Center on Laughlin Street and the Quay County Court House were able to get in because people were at those buildings, he said.

The city’s emergency manager, Keith Henderson, said residents should make and practice an emergency plan in their homes and have supplies for emergencies.

It is also dangerous to be in a car driving when there is a tornado warning, Henderson said.

Cherry and Henderson said they are looking at offering a severe weather awareness seminar for residents.

And they are also considering providing a phone line that could provide information in such emergency situations.

The city’s two sirens also will be examined next week to determine the costs of repair. To replace them would cost up to $35,000 each and additional sirens are needed to serve the community, Henderson said.

The city has been notified that it will be awarded a grant for an alert system for Quay County that will provide emergency messages by land and cell phones, email and text messages, Cherry said. The Homeland Security grant is expected by the end of the year, Cherry said.

In the meantime, if residents have questions about emergency preparedness they can call 461-4400.