Storms bring hail, rain and raise area lake water levels

By Thomas Garcia

QCS Senior Writer

Hailstones as big as tennis balls and rainfall of up to 2.5 inches fell on Quay County locations during storms on Saturday and Sunday nights.

During Saturday’s storms of winds and hail, a tree branch broke near James Lout’s home in Quay Valley, and the falling branch broke out the house’s front window.

Lout said that tennis-ball size hail also broke the satellite dish on his house. He boarded the windows, he said, and the satellite dish was repaired on Monday.

The storms also caused about 200 feet of roadway on Quay Valley’s Briscoe Ranch Road to wash away, leaving a gap marked by 10-foot cliffs on both sides.

About 250 Quay County households lost electric power from about 7 p.m. to around 4 a.m. Saturday night. Lightning severed a wire on the circuit, according to Jason Lindsey, a Farmers Electric Coop spokesperson.

Rain and hail Saturday threatened to put a damper on Rockabilly on the Route at the Tucumcari Convention Center, but the timing of the storms allowed weekend events to go as planned with only minor delays.

The storms will be beneficial to agriculture, however.

Leonard Lauriault, superintendent of the New Mexico State University Agricultural Experiment Station near Tucumcari,  said one of the benefits the rain has had is greener pastures.

Still, he said, “Its going to be a while until we have a full recovery of our range lands.”

While it may be tempting to allow grazing on the green pastures, however, he recommended that ranchers consider holding off on grazing until the first hard freeze. That, he said, will give the grass time to seed, and it will have a better chance to return at full growth next year.

Lauriault said that the weekend’s  storms  produced hail that damaged the test crop of cotton planted at the experiment station earlier this month. He said he may be able to replant the crop when the soil dries and temperatures rise.

Lauriault said the optimal soil temperature for planting cotton is 65 degrees, and the recent rainfall has lowered the temperature to 60 F. If the temperatures can stay high and the rain hold off for a few days, the ground temperature may rise by the weekend, he said.

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque predicts warmer and drier weather throughout the week with a 10 percent chance of rain on Friday, according to Christopher Luckett, NWS meteorologist.

The recent rainfalls also enriched area lakes.  At Conchas Lake, the water level Tuesday rose six inches, to 4177.22 feet above sea level due to the weekend storms, said Michael Vollmer, natural resource specialist.

The recent rains have benefited croplands served by the Arch Hurley Conservancy District, allowing the district to reduce the amount of water it taps from Conchas Lake, Franklin McCasland, district manager, said. Conchas Lake is the sole source of irrigation water for the 42,000 acres of farm land in Quay County that Arch Hurley serves.

The district is now only releasing 20 cubic feet per second from Conchas to maintain a constant  water level in its irrigation canals, McCasland said.

McCasland said district farms are currently using storm water mainly to nourish crops. Meanwhile, he said, Conchas Lake received 2,500 acre feet of water due to last weekend’s storms. Storms last month added 10,500 acre feet to the reservoir, he said.

“We’re almost back to what the lake elevation was when we started releasing water in April,” McCasland said.

At the Ute Lake Reservoir near Logan, the water level rose nine inches over the weekend, bringing the elevation to 3,779 feet above sea level, within 10 feet of its spillway, said Rex Stall, Ute Reservoir caretaker.

Stall said Tuesday the lake is 7.65 feet from the storage capacity limit of 3,787 feet above sea level. When the lake reaches that level, he said, water will be released into the Canadian River to flow toward Texas.

He said the last time a water release occurred was from Sept. 6 to Sept. 30, 2006.













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