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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

April 11, 2001

Dust storm causes blackouts, I-20 fatality

Staff Writer

PECOS, April 11, 2001 - A Fort Worth woman was killed, several cars and trucks were destroyed and at least a half dozen area communities were without power Tuesday night and this morning, after high winds struck across West Texas for the second time in five days.

Isabel Blanchard at the Pecos Municipal Airport said winds reached as high as 73 miles an hour at 5:54 p.m. That was 11 mph higher than the winds that blew through Pecos last Friday, causing several accidents and damage to area homes and businesses.

Blanchard said the airport did not received any damage due to the winds this time, but there were reports of trees being uprooted in Barstow and limbs broken off others and thrown into homes on the west side of Pecos.

The traffic fatality occurred about 6 p.m., as part of a fiery multi-vehicle pile up on Interstate 20 at the 37 mile marker west of town. Blowing dirt across the highway at the Business I-20 exit created zero visibility conditions at a point where the highway makes a sharp right curve for traffic headed eastbound into Pecos.

According to the report by the Department of Public Safety, a 1999 Freightliner truck tractor driven by Gregory Esterline of Colorado Springs was stopped on the side of the road on the eastbound side of I-20 because of the dust when a 1999 Volvo truck tractor driven by Dorothy Lee Clark, 42, of Fort Worth struck the freightliner from behind. The trucks were part of a group of over a dozen vehicles that reached the 37 mile marker at the time the visibility reached zero, and at least seven other vehicles were involved in the chain reaction collision.

Both vehicles were engulfed in flames and the trailer of the freightliner burned for more than 30 minutes after the crash. Ambulance and fire personnel were called to the scene, but were unable to remove Dorothy Clark from a cab, due to the heat of the flames. Fire trucks were forced to make several trips through the dust storm back into town for more water to fight the fire.

Clark was pronounced dead at the scene by Justice of the Peace Amonario Ramon, according to DPS Trooper Anthony Moreno, who investigated the accident.

Clark's husband, Lorenzo Clark, who was a passenger in the Volvo truck's cab was injured. He is listed in stable condition at Reeves County Hospital.

The I-20 wreck was just the worst of a series of multi-vehicle accidents that occurred Tuesday. A truck and car were involved in another accident in the westbound lanes on I-20 at the 38 mile marker about 5:05 p.m., while ambulances from both Pecos and Balmorhea were called to the scene of an accident involving four truck tractors on I-10 at the 225 mile marker, near the Reeves-Pecos County line. Other accidents were reported on I-10 near Kent and Fort Stockton.

On Highway 17 near the site of a head-on collision during last Friday's dust storm, a Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school bus was involved in a collision about 5:10 p.m., just before Texas Department of Transportation crews closed the road to vehicles for nine hours.

The students on board the bus were reportedly not injured, and P-B-T Transportation Director Jimmy Dutchover said damage to the bus was minor, with no exact estimates yet.

"As a precaution the bus was towed in for the safety of the driver," Dutchover said. "There were no other driver's available, and at the time they weren't letting them (drivers) into Pecos.

"The only reason they did travel was they were advised by TxDOT and the Department of Public Safety that the roads were open," he added.

Two buses carrying Pecos-Barstow-Toyah band members back from district competition in Socorro were forced to spent about two hours at the Pilot Truck Stop in Van Horn because of the high winds and blowing dust along Interstates 10 and 20. Both buses arrived back in Pecos about 8:30 p.m., but a third bus could not make the trip back and students spent the night in El Paso.

Baseball players from San Elizario High School had to spend the night in Pecos, after their game was at first delayed two hours, and then postponed due to the high winds. The game was rescheduled for 2 p.m. today.

Meanwhile, students in Balmorhea had no school at all today, after winds caused power poles to topple and knocked out power to sections of southern Reeves County at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Power remained out all night, but this morning West Texas Utilities' community consultant Linda Caton said, "I just talked to the technicians who said the power is back on now."

Caton said that the unofficial report WTU had received was that the winds came through this area at about 75 miles an hour yesterday afternoon, causing several electrical problems.

"The technician said it was like working in a dust bowl," said Caton. "We did have 16 poles down."

Caton said the 16 poles were to transmission lines, which affected many homes. "The whole area of Saragosa and Verhalen was affected and we had some problems in McCamey, which was minimum compared to the damage in Balmorhea," she said.

"I know the technicians were working as fast as they could to restore power to everyone," she said.

Power was also out to Texas-New Mexico Power Company customers in the Barstow area on Tuesday, but was restored later in the evening. Business Unit Manager Angela Romero said that they had received substantial damage.

"All of West Texas was hit with this wind storm and because the wind was so high we experienced some damage," said Romero.

"In the Pecos district about 650 customers were affected," said Romero.

Romero said that Toyah was affected as well Tuesday evening. "Their power was restored at midnight," she said.

In Kermit, which is also serviced by TNMP, two transformer outages were recorded that affected about 2,500 customers, according to Romero. "And also part of Fort Stockton, which affected about 700 customers there," she added.

"What we have been able to put together today is the substantial damage, but I'm sure we'll be receiving calls throughout the day," said Romero.

Twenty-seven poles were down in West Texas and more are probably down, but have not been noted, according to Romero. "We're expecting more calls and more damage as the day progresses," she said.

One crew from another TNMP office in West Texas came in to help with the damage, along with two crews from New Mexico.

"They came in to help us restore the power in all the communities," she said. "We're hoping at this point that we've been able to assess the larger damage and as the day progresses we'll be able to predict a brighter picture."

Officials with RTBI project visit city, bomber target site

Staff Writer

PECOS, April 11, 2001 - The Pecos Economic Development Corporation hosted a tour of the Town of Pecos City and the new site for the Realistic Bomber Training Initiative (RBTI) for local citizens, representatives of the company that will operate the electronic scoring site and U.S Air Force officials Tuesday.

The group was able to get a look at the bomber-training site located approximately 17 miles south of Pecos in the morning, before high winds struck the area.

Once the site is completed the Air Force is planning to fly B-1 and B-52 bombers on training missions at altitudes of as low as 500 feet in Reeves County.

According to Lt. Col. Dale Garrett of Langley Air Force Base, the new training site covers about 24 ½ acres of land, located approximately 17 miles south of town.

"The actual fencing will cover 15 acres," Garrett said.

The Air Force contracted out the services of Ahntech, Inc., out of California, to man and service the site once completed, according to Garrett.

Garrett also said that the construction contract went to Azteca Enterprises Corporation, out of Dallas, which has used local Pecos crews to do the construction.

Director of West Coast Operations for Ahntech, Chuck Sturges, said that the company currently has a six-year contract with the Air Force, which started in January of 2000. Ahntech also services four other facilities similar to the electronic site being constructed now near Pecos.

Sturges said that once the site is completed his company would bring in all the equipment needed for the RTBI project.

"We'll have approximately 12 to 14 tractor-trailer trucks full of equipment, supplies and files brought in," he said.

Sturges said that they would then start to set up and bring systems up individually until all the systems are operational including the small "mini-mute" sites.

RTBI is designed to simulate combat flying conditions for B-1 and B-52 bombers flying out of Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene and Barksdale AFB near Shreveport, La. Sturges said that the "mini-mutes" would simulate some kind of a threat and would be scattered in a long line south of the main site as far away as 150 miles.

"The purpose is to get the aircraft and pilots to react to the threats," he said.

Once completed the site would employ 20-30 people, some of which would be moved here from other areas.

"Some of the workforce will not be moved," Sturges said.

He said that they would look locally for some maintenance and administrative positions as well as relying on help from OC-Pecos for future training opportunities.

"We'll be looking at the community college to set up training for the future," he said.

Currently two lawsuits have been filed by farmers, ranchers and environmentalists in the Trans-Pecos area and in the South Plains near Lubbock, but Sturges said that hopefully the site would be operational by this January.

The group was also taken on a tour of the town making stops at various locations including the schools, Federal Courthouse, museum, hospital, Maxie Park and the airport.

PEDC President Gari Ward said that the group of Air Force and Ahntech representatives was pleased with the community and the site.

"They were impressed," Ward said.

Ward said that the horrible dust storm and a swarm of tiny biting bugs at the scoring site did not seem to bother them much and enjoyed seeing the community.

"They have no problem with the community at all," he said. "Everything went well."

Ward said that he is pleased with the RBTI project.

"I'm real pleased with the project," he said. "I'm real grateful it's under construction."

Ward said that the hard part of getting the project underway is over and all that needs to be done now is to finish construction, get the site manned and then get it operational.

Ward said that the city would greatly benefit from the new site and said it is something positive for the community.

He said that the construction of the site would bring in approximately $2 million as well as about $1.5 million in payroll each year.

"It's going to bring some money into town without question," he said.

"I'm pleased that they're coming and that this thing has advanced as rapidly as it has," Ward said. "It's good for Pecos and Reeves County."

Council to vote on seeking grant for parks program on Thursday

PECOS, April 11, 2001 - The Town of Pecos City Council is scheduled to discuss a resolution authorizing application to the Texas Recreation and Parks account small grants program during the regular meeting at 7:30 a.m., tomorrow at City Hall.

The city would apply for the grant through the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW).

The city is eligible to receive assistance from the program because it is a political subdivision of a population of 50,000 or less.

If the Council approves authorization to pursue the grant program, City Manager Carlos Yerena would oversee the application.

The city would use the grant money to make improvements for the Pecos Miniature Golf Course, located on the east side of Maxey Park.

The Council is also scheduled to consider the second reading of the "Keep Texas Beautiful" ordinance as well as considering an amended ordinance for the City of Pecos International Plumbing Code.

The Council is also to consider a status report on the Pecos Economic Development Corporation.

Easter egg exhibit running this week at Pecos Museum

PECOS, April 11, 2001 - The West of the Pecos Museum is announcing a special Easter "Eggcibit" to be on display now through April 21.

A variety of decorated eggs are on exhibit _ from china painted eggs, jewel encrusted decorated eggs and even a decorated Ostrich egg. The exhibit is free.

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. The public is invited to come in and view this unique exhibit.

For more information call 445-5076.


Narcissa Arreguey


PECOS, April 11, 2001 - High Tuesday 92. Low this morning 47. Forecast for tonight: Mostly clear. Low in the mid 40s. Southwest wind 5 to 15 mph. Thursday: Mostly sunny. High in the lower 80s. Southwest wind 10 to 20 mph. Thursday night: Partly cloudy. Low in the lower 50s. Friday and Saturday: Partly cloudy. Lows in the upper 40s to the mid 50s. Highs in the 80s.

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