Historic Weather Pattern Cause For Destruction Across Area
On Tuesday, March 12th, the National Weather Service's forecast for severe weather began to take shape around 3:00 PM. The NWS had issued a tornado watch and at 4:19 PM Chaves County Skywarn Coordinator Jim Tucker called a severe weather net on the 147.320 repeater. He and his son James Tucker Jr left Roswell toward Artesia to spot several cells moving rapidly to the north/northeast headed for the Dexter and Hagerman areas. At 5:59 PM traffic on the public service bands indicated that a sheriff's deputy had spotted a confirmed tornado on the ground near Dexter. At that time Jim Tucker called the National Weather Service office in Albuquerque advising them of the report. At 6:01 PM Abuquerque NWS issued a tornado warning for Dexter and the surrounding area. Upon arrival at State Road 2 and Cherokee law enforcement had blocked all access into Dexter. The Tuckers then began to survey the area south of Dexter for signs of damage which led them to the home pictured below at Cherokee and Ojibwa Roads.
Coordinator Tucker met with Chaves County Emergency Manager Karen Sanders and Albuquerque NWS Meteorologists Kerry Jones and Sharon Sullivan who arrived in Dexter the following day. An Emergency Operations Center was established at Dexter Elementary School and during the morning briefing on Wednesday the 13th it was decided that Tucker would accompany the NWS team since he was familiar with the location of the damaged areas. It was later determined that the tornado would probably fall into the EF2 category with estimated winds around 120 MPH.
Wednesday's tasks of damage assessment and cleanup operations were met with yet another challenge as winds picked up again peaking at 67 MPH across the area prompting officials to suspend cleanup activities until Thursday due to the risk of injury from flying sheet metal and other debris.
In all, several mobile homes were completely destroyed, several houses had the roofs either peeled or removed completely, many irrigation pivots were heavily damaged, dairy structures and barns were demolished, but fortunately only minor injuries were reported. Following the four o'clock briefing on Wednesday, Tucker and the NWS team left the area to return home. Numerous reports from across southeast New Mexico had been coming in involving power outages, brownout conditions, downed trees and traffic accidents involving high profile vehicles. Tucker stopped to render aid and photograph this rollover on U.S. 285 near Orchard Park Rd., but the driver could not be located.
Radar image at the time tornado was reported by law enforcement.