Las Cruces picks up after hail storm

LAS CRUCES – It looked more like Nov. 19 than May 19 in the front yard of Emilio Gamez’s east Las Cruces home Thursday.

“My wife just gave me a lot of chores to do,” said Gamez, with a small, wistful smile. “(I’m) supposed to be retired and lying on my couch and taking it easy. So much for retirement; no such luck.”

At least a morning’s worth of yard work awaited Gamez and countless other Las Crucens cleaning up from Wednesday’s strong rain and hail storm. Some areas of Las Cruces, and nearby communities, got pounded with as much as 1 1/2 inches of rain during a 40-minute span Wednesday afternoon. Some yards had as much as a foot or more of mostly dime-sized hail piled up after Wednesday’s storm. Any yard that had trees, like Gamez’s were cluttered with leaves and broken branches. The intensity of the falling hail caused lots of leaves and branches to fall to the ground, that one way or another, will have to be cleared away.

“I’m going to pick up as many of branches as I can and then use the lawn mower to clean up the leaves,” said Greg Porras, one of Gamez’s neighbors. “I’ve got one of those grass catchers on my mower; I can kill two birds with one stone. My lawn needed mowing anyway and now I can do that and get rid of the dead leaves at the same time.”

At least for the moment, it doesn’t appear likely there will be a big rush of Las Crucens headed to their insurance agents to file claims for damages to the roofs of their homes, or their vehicles. Many of them already did that in October when hail storms created a boon of work for roofing companies and volumes of permits for those jobs that had to be issued by the city of Las Cruces Community Development Department.

“(I) got more than $10,000 to get my roof fixed, and another $1.700 for my car, when we got hail in October,” Joyce McFarland said. “When the storm hit (Wednesday), one of the very first thoughts I had was, ‘Oh no, not again. What’s going to happen to my insurance?'”

Rick Nezzer, spokesman for the Sisbarro Dealerships, said a closer inspection Thursday showed the vehicles and the dealerships’ buildings were not substantially damaged by the storm.

“Fortunately, nothing worth writing about,” Nezzer said.

Hugo Costa, executive director of Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority, said the newly-opened emergency dispatch center sustained some storm damage.

“We had a few problems with some portions of the roof and some exterior doors,” Costa said. “Fortunately, none of those problems affected any of our operations or any critical equipment.”

During the height of the storm, shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday, rain and hail began seeping through some of MVRDA’s exterior doors and between some roof joists. The new $8.25 million MVRDA dispatch center, 911 Lake Tahoe Court, began operations at its new location about three weeks ago. The new 16,700 square-foot emergency dispatch center replaced the old MVRDA facility, a retrofitted former savings and loan building near the intersection of Main Street and Amador Avenue, that had been used for more than 20 years. Costa said storms similar to Wednesday’s would have required sandbags to be placed at entrances to the old call center.

“Fortunately, this is all under warranty,” said Costa, of the damages caused by rain and hail. “They (work crews) were here at 7 a.m. (Thursday) working on everything that needed fixing. It doesn’t appear it will take them very long to get everything done.”

City Manager Robert Garza said Wednesday’s weather didn’t cause problems city crews weren’t already prepared for. Minor flooding of city streets was reported, and some downtown traffic lights were inoperable for hours after the storm.

In an email Thursday to the Sun-News, Garza noted there were some traffic hiccups and crashes during the downpour.

“As far as damages, I don’t believe we suffered any major impacts outside of debris within roadways and landscaping vegetative impacts,” he wrote. “It will take a few days for the crews to clean and sweep the (street) arterials and collectors but all areas are passable.”

Steve Ramirez can be reached at 575-541-5452, sramirez@lcsun-news.com, or @SteveRamirez6 on Twitter.

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