ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A tornado that ripped roofs from buildings and injured five people in a tiny New Mexico town has left a trail of debris that authorities said Wednesday they would wait to clear because of high winds still sweeping through the region.
The tornado touched down outside of Dexter on Tuesday evening before quickly barreling into the town about 18 miles (or 29 kilometers) south of Roswell, where the injured were taken to a hospital. They had suffered non-life threatening injuries, authorities said.
Chaves County Sheriff Mike Herrington said the tornado “took out” about 10 homes on one street in the town of about 5,000 people. A dairy was forced to put down about 150 cows that were injured, he added.
Schools are expected to be closed for the remainder of the week, and all entries into the town have been closed as 60 to 70 mph winds continue to stir scrap and other tornado wreckage.
“It’s flying around like shrapnel,” Herrington said in a phone interview. “It’s blowing in a circle … It’s just not a good, safe environment.”
The strength of the tornado has not yet been determined by a team the National Weather Service sent to the area, meteorologist Chuck Jones said.
In the Wednesday, March 13, 2019, photo released by the New Mexico State Police shows shipping containers strewn across the river bed, with a jumbled pile of containers on the slope above one bank of the Canadian River near Logan, N.M., about 184 miles (296 kilometers) east of Albuquerque. Union Pacific spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said the derailed cars were the tail end of a mixed-freight train consisting of two locomotives and 73 rail cars. Authorities blamed high winds for a train derailment in eastern New Mexico where approximately 25 freight cars went off a trestle over a mostly dry river bed. (New Mexico State Police via AP) (Associated Press)
The tornado came amid a strong storm system that was not expected to relent as it moved toward the northeast, Jones said. “It’s deepening and strengthening very quickly,” he said.
About 200 miles (or 322 kilometers) northeast of Dexter, authorities said high winds had derailed a train on the high desert plains near Logan, a town of about 1,000 residents. New Mexico State Police photos of the derailment showed shattered train cars scattered across a mostly dry riverbed.
There were no reported injuries in the derailment, state police said.
In total, about 40,000 Xcel Energy customers in the region that spans much of eastern New Mexico and the Texas panhandle were without electricity, the company said.
In Dexter, Herrington said he believed there would have been more tornado injuries had more people been home when it touched down. But luckily, it occurred at a time when many people were at work or returning home from work, he said.
A severe weather warning was issued earlier in the afternoon for hail, lightning, high winds and multiple tornadoes, with authorities urging residents to stay off roads and shelter animals.
Another tornado also touched down in nearby Hagerman on Tuesday, destroying the city’s water system, the Roswell Daily Record reported .
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