The March 23 tornado weakened before hitting Clovis, according to a National Weather Service tornado expert.
Keith Hayes, warning coordination meteorologist with Albuquerque’s NWS, said the tornado was at its strongest about the time it hit Grande Vida Dairy on the Cacahuate Road nine miles east of Portales and as it was churning through southern Curry County.
“It seemed to really intensify,” Hayes said.
The tornado, which was packing up to 125 mph winds when it hit Clovis, hip-hopped across U.S. 70 before slamming into the east side of South Prince Street.
Hayes said it looks like the tornado lifted after hitting along South Prince before dropping down about three to four blocks north of Mabry Drive.
Hayes believes the tornado was about 50 to 100 feet above the ground north of Mabry, and it was finger-like vortexes dropping down from the main body that caused the damage.
“Clovis was fortunate it never turned into a ground-scouring tornado,” Hayes said.
The NWS reported 16 tornadoes in New Mexico that day, with most of the damage in Clovis and Logan.
Hayes said tornadoes in eastern New Mexico in March are rare with April and May are considered the prime tornado season.
“The intensity of the outbreak was what is surprising,” Hayes said.
Damage in Curry County was reported from County Road 4 to just north of 21st Street.