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.
The following is from the New Mexico Family Emergency Pearparedness Guide which provides information and instructions in the event of a tornado.
A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour.
Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others.
Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still.
A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms.
A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.
What to Do:
If you are under a tornado warning: Seek shelter immediately!
If You are in a structure:
Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.
If You are in a Vehicle, Trailer, or Mobile Home:
Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
If You are Outside with No Shelter: Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.