High winds cause roof damage, power outages

Airport recorded peak gust of 62 mph Thursday afternoon

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
The roof of the Upper Fruitland Chapter house shows wind damage on Friday in Upper Fruitland.
  • Meteorologist Kerry Jones said wind speeds were recorded between 55 and 70 mph in the area Thursday afternoon.
  • San Juan County Fire Department Division Chief David Vega said the department responded to 51 calls for service on Thursday.
  • Thousands of customers across the Navajo Nation lost electrical power on Thursday.

FARMINGTON — High winds on Thursday resulted in reports of downed power lines in San Juan County and a major electrical outages for several communities on the Navajo Nation.

The weather station at the Four Corners Regional Airport recorded a peak wind gust of 62 mph at 4:49 p.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.

Kerry Jones, a meteorologist for the Albuquerque NWS, said wind speeds were recorded between 55 and 70 mph in the area Thursday afternoon.

Jones said weather conditions will improve for the weekend, but the wind is expected to return Monday evening into Tuesday.

San Juan County Fire Department Division Chief David Vega said the department responded to 51 calls for service on Thursday. While a majority of calls were for downed power line investigations, firefighters responded to a structure fire at 6:12 p.m. on County Road 3235 near Aztec.

The department also responded to a one-acre brush fire today along the La Plata River near the New Mexico-Colorado border.

Conditions in the county remain extremely dry, and the department does not permit open burning during windy conditions, Vega said. He added that residents are asked to report open burns to the San Juan County Fire Department at 505-334-1180.

On the Navajo Nation, the roof of the Upper Fruitland Chapter house sustained damage on Thursday due to high winds, and the building was ordered closed until further notice by the tribe's Risk Management Program.

Navajo Nation firefighter Eric Travizo, left, talks with an Upper Fruitland Chapter house employee about the condition of the building Friday in Upper Fruitland.

Program supervisor Shawnevan Dale said officials were contacted by chapter employees at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday about the damage, and the building was closed because of safety concerns.

Dale added the program's construction inspector evaluated the building today, and repairs could be made this weekend.

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority customers in Tohatchi, Naschitti, Sheep Springs and Navajo, and in Window Rock, Fort Defiance, Ganado, Burnside, Steamboat, Klagetoh, Wide Ruins, Kinlichee and Nazlini in Arizona were without electrical service starting Thursday afternoon.

Deenise Becenti, spokeswoman for NTUA, said the outage was reported at about 4:30 p.m. and was caused by an issue with a transmission line operated by the Public Service Co. of New Mexico, which feeds the NTUA electrical system.

Wind damage to the roof of the Upper Fruitland Chapter house is visibleon Friday in Upper Fruitland.

PNM spokeswoman Shannon Jackson said crews were dispatched to the area Thursday evening and inspected the line before power was restored at 6:23 a.m. today.

Workers did not find any damage, but strong winds are suspected of forcing power lines to make contact, causing a "trick" to the system, Jackson said.

Becenti said 10,136 customers initially were impacted, but power was rerouted and restored to Ganado and Burnside by about 7 p.m. Thursday. That left 7,436 customers without electricity until the power was completely restored this morning, Becenti said.

The outage caused the Central Consolidated School District to cancel classes today for Naschitti Elementary School, and Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye granted two hours of administrative leave for tribal employees within the affected areas.

Becenti added that high winds also downed two utility poles, resulting in an outage for the area south of Shiprock and in the Two Grey Hills Chapter on Thursday.

Outages can be reported to NTUA by calling 800-528-5011 or under the "Report an outage" tab on the NTUA website, ntua.com.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.