N.M. Towns Begin Clean-Up After Twisters Destroy Buildings

Saturday, March 24th 2007, 6:10 pm
By: News On 6

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ When she awoke Saturday, Andrea McLaren found that a stretch of the eastern New Mexico city she calls home had been obliterated by a tornado that flattened houses, snapped telephone poles and even heaved a trailer through a bowling alley.

The tornado was one of 13 that moved through a dozen communities along the New Mexico-Texas border late Friday, leaving two people critically injured. Residents said Saturday that the cleanup effort could take months.

``Pretty much everything was pushed together like toy cars,'' McLaren said by telephone from Clovis, N.M. ``We've been picking up debris the whole day. ... Clean up and assess the damage, that's all we can do.''

The worst damage was reported in Clovis and the village of Logan about 80 miles to the north, state officials said.

The Clovis twister touched down shortly before 8 p.m. Friday, forecasters said. On Saturday, city officials described a narrow path of destruction about three miles long. About 100 homes and businesses were either lost or damaged, and at least three schools were damaged, police said.

``We've got some significant damage. No question it's the most significant we've ever seen here,'' Clovis Mayor David Lansford said.

Hospitals in Clovis treated 35 victims, including two critically injured, state emergency management spokeswoman Carrie Moritomo said Saturday. One of the critically hurt was taken to a hospital in Lubbock, Texas, for treatment.

Gov. Bill Richardson ordered about 20 soldiers from the New Mexico Army National Guard to provide support in Clovis, spokesman Maj. Kenneth Nava said.

In Logan, a twister hit a trailer park, leaving two people hospitalized, Moritomo said. Many other injuries were reported, but they were minor.

That tornado touched down shortly before 3:30 p.m. Friday and destroyed roughly two dozen mobile homes and campers, while another 50 or so homes received some damaged, said village administrator Larry Wallin.

About 30 homes were without electricity Saturday, and Wallin estimated it would be five to six months before the damage is cleaned up.

``It happened so fast and we were scattered so thin,'' he said.

Two state emergency assessment teams were expected to arrive in Logan and Clovis on Saturday, officials said. The Salvation Army has opened a shelter at high school in Clovis. American Red Cross teams were fanning out to provide food and assistance as needed.