Brief rainfall offers respite from drought

Alisa Boswell

Much-needed rain pelted most of eastern new Mexico and West Texas late Monday in a gusty thunderstorm that was also blamed for igniting a series of grass fires near Muleshoe.

Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service was reporting 1.22 inches of rain fell in Clovis. Officials at Clovis Airport recorded .14 inches and Cannon Air Force Base measured .27 inches.

The weather service said Portales received .14 inches of rain.

Lightning from the storm set off a series of five small grass fires near Muleshoe. The fires began breaking out around 9:30 p.m. (CDT).

Muleshoe Fire Chief Tom Ladd said all fires were all contained by 6 a.m. Tuesday with about 200 acres burned at each site. He said there were no injuries and no structures damaged.

The rain was welcomed by farmers in the region but officials were cautioning it wasn’t enough to lift fire restrictions due to the drought.

Portales Fire Chief Gary Nuckols said the rain simply was not enough to make much of a difference.

“We’re very grateful for the rain,” Nuckols said. “But with the heat we’re having, we’re going to have to have a lot more before conditions start to get better.”

Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman agreed with Nuckols that the amount of rain would not make much difference to drought conditions.

“It may green things up a little bit but it’s not going to have a lasting affect because there’s no more rain in this week’s forecast that I’m aware of,” Westerman said. “The rain will help to some degree but we need a series of rains and not a single rain for it to have a moderate to major impact on the fuel load.”

He said there is only a 10 percent chance of the area having rain some time next week.

Although the rain did not impact fire conditions very much, it made some local farmers happy, according to Curry County wheat and corn farmer Frank Blackburn, who said he can actually see moisture in the ground around his crops now.

“We got eight tenths at my house and more to the north,” said Blackburn, also a Curry County commissioner. “It’s going to keep me from running my irrigation wells for the next few days; It’s going to provide pasture for the cattle and it puts a bigger smile on my face.”

Blackburn said it was a relief to get the moisture for his crops and he hopes it will cool the weather some.

Roosevelt County wheat farmer Rick Ledbetter said he was not so fortunate with the rain.

“From what I’m seeing, there’s not much benefit to what we got last night,” Ledbetter said. “It wasn’t very widespread that I can tell. I’ve got to think this is the beginning of more rain. We are in some pretty serious trouble here with these weather conditions.”