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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Monday, May 10, 2004

Sudden storm causes Sunday power outages

Staff Writer

A surprise thunderstorm that hit Pecos Sunday evening dumped almost an inch of rain and hail on parts of the town and caused two major outages that left over 1,700 customers without power.

The storm, which hit about 6:40 p.m., included lightning and high winds that first created blowing dust conditions on the southwest side of town. The heaviest rains lasted until about 7:20 p.m., and drizzle continued in sections of town for about another 20 minutes.

The National Weather Service office in Midland gave no advance warning of the severe thunderstorm. “The first hail was spotted about 6:48 p.m. and the warning was issued by 6:47 p.m., so there was a one-minute lead time,” said Seth Nagle, NWS Meteorologist in Midland.

The dime- to quarter-sized hail stripped leaves off trees around town, though no serious damage too property was reported. But the lighting strikes throughout town triggered a series of power outages, according to Tommy Terry with Texas New-Mexico Power Co. “We had scattered outages throughout the county. Most of them were small ones - one to two people, but we had two large ones in the center of the city,” Terry said. “One of them affected 712 customers and the other affected right about 1,000.”

He said both outages occurred about 6:45 p.m. and power was restored to customers in the first outage in about 30 minutes. Customers affected by the second outage had their power about on about 7:30 p.m.

“Lightning got into one of our substations. It hit directly into the steel of the substation,” Terry said. “There was no damage from it. The equipment did what it was supposed to do and took the lightning off the system before it could damage any homes.”

One of the outages included the area around the T-NMP office on Stafford Boulevard, along with the Pecos Criminal Justice Center. Pecos Police Capt. Kelly Davis said an auxiliary generator kicked in at the jail when power was lost on the southwest side of town.

“There’s not a whole lot you can do about that when there’s lightning of that severity,” Terry said. “You just hope the system performs and I think our system did a good job considering the amount of lightning coming out of that storm.”

Aside from the CJC and residents in the central part of town, Cebridge cable customers also lost service due to the lightning, while traffic lights at Third and Cedar streets also were knocked out by the storm.

Nagle said the NWS was told Sunday’s rain dropped about .85 inch of rain in Pecos, while Bill Randall Cole with KIUN radio said their downtown gauge caught .7 inch of rain. KIUN’s total for the first 4 1/2 months of 2004 is now 7.88 inches. The city’s annual average rainfall is 10.99 inches, according to the National Weather Service, a total that has been reached only twice in the last 12 years.

Sunday’s rains were the first significant ones in the area since the first weekend of April, when two days of rains caused a levee to break in Toyah, flooding the north side of town, and later collapsing the eastbound Interstate 20 bridge over Salt Draw.

The main part of Sunday’s storm built up over Pecos, and provided little rain to the surrounding area. The Texas Agriculture Experiment Station seven miles west of town reported only a trace of rain from the storm, and Nagle said no rain was reported to the east in Monahans. Severe storms with hail were reported to the north in Lovington, N.M. and around Seminole, which received .54 inch of rain last night.

Nagle said the forecast for this afternoon and tonight is similar to Sunday, with a chance of isolated thunderstorms across the area. “There’s an upper-level disturbance with a lot of low-level moisture, which makes conditions pretty unstable,” he said. “With how unstable the area is we’re expecting a few severe thunderstorms.”

DPS database loss leaves county in ‘fine’ mess

Staff Writer

The Reeves County Commissioners met this morning to discuss how to deal with the recently discontinued warrant database maintained by the Department of Public Safety, and discussed how t handle with various budget shortfalls in county departments.

Justices of the Peace Amanario Ramon and Rosendo Carrasco were on hand to explain to the court the lurch their departments have been left in with out the service previously provided by the DPS.

“The DPS has pulled out all of out warrants, and we have been left with no way to collect our fines,” Carrasco said. “I estimate that we have $25,000 in outstanding fines just from my office.”

The judge explained that the state was turning over its warrant enforcement service to a private company that would collect the fines upon the driver attempting to renew his license. This was done in an effort to keep the troopers on the road instead of them taking their time to arrest and process these Class C warrants.

“The Omnibase program is what the state is going with, but we have heard many of the justices complaining about the fact that the program can take up to four or five years before the license needs to be renewed,” Judge Ramon said.

Commissioner Felipe Arredondo added that there are agencies that specialize in the collection of fees for governmental fines and fees.

Judge Carrasco added that he had previously had the DPS trooper in Balmorhea “knocking on doors to serve the local warrants, but that does not allow for the collection of fines form state residents living outside of Reeves County. Unless they are local, we have no way of enforcing these Class C misdemeanors once they leave this county.”

Commissioner Herman Tarin said that advisors to the 254 counties in the state would be providing advise in the near future over how to deal with this situation.

“Why would the state abandon the counties like this?” County Judge Jimmy Galindo asked.

“I have heard that the legislature will fix this during their next session,” County Auditor Lynn Owens said. “People feel that it is the state’s responsibility. The state is saying that the serving of the warrants is taking the troopers off of the highway to collect fees. I think that this was a way for DPS to make budget.”

“So we’re left soliciting proposals from private agencies for the collection of those fees?” Galindo asked.

“I would like to see the county enter into the IGA (intergovernmental agreement) with the state for the use of the Omnibase system,” Owens said. “The state has an agreement with Omni.”

“I Think that the judges feel like a proactive collection procedure would be in Reeves County’s best interest,” Galindo said. “I think that entering into our Omni would be a good backup, in addition to entering into the collection agreement.”

“If we enter into both agreements, then we have to be very careful to remove the warrants from omni as soon as the private agency collects, if not, we could be liable for false arrest,” Owens said.

The court decided to put off the approval of the IGA until the proposals from the private collection agencies could be solicited and reviewed.

In other business the court approved various line item transfers to cover shortfalls in the Sheriff’s Office, the Golf Course Department and in the County Extension Office.

According to Owens each department had run into shortfalls and all except the Golf Course had no way of transferring the need funds from within their own budgets.

“We are going to have a tough time with this budget this year,” Owens said.

Sheriff’s Office representative Trina Orona said that the funds needed to buy soap and bleach to launder the inmates clothes were not available “A lot of my budget has been taken out this year, mostly out of food.”

“What causes these problems is when there is ordering with out approval,” Galindo said.

“Not on my part, sorry to correct you, but I send my request to Lynn for approval,” Orona replied.

Owens said that the problem is that items less than $50 need only departmental approval, but when he sees a request, he doesn’t see the outstanding smaller requests and that sends the Sheriff’s Office budget into the red.

“The golf course can move money to cover what it needs, but the sheriff’s office and County Extension Office are up against the wall here. I think that the Sheriff’s office especially will be hurting in the food items and general supplies this year,” Owens said.

Commissioner Hivi Rayos said that he would donate $1,000 from his travel expense budget to cover the outstanding bills from the Sheriff's Office and the court approved the moving of the necessary funds from the county travel budget to cover the extension agent’s travel.

Deadline Tuesday to cast votes early

With one day left after today to cast votes early in local elections, a total of 629 people have either cast ballots by mail or in person at the Pecos Community Center.

Local voters will be deciding Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD and Town of Pecos City Council contested elections this Saturday, and as of this morning a total of 428 people had cast ballots in person and another 201 had mailed in ballots to the election judge’s office.

Early voting will continue at the Community Center until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, while polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Early voting also ends Tuesday for the Balmorhea city and Balmorhea ISD elections.

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