A tornado hit north of Alamogordo on Tuesday evening, leaving behind a trail of damage in just minutes. It was a rare occurrence for the area, injuring one man and destroying his home.
The National Weather Service says the tornado was only on the ground for a few minutes, but it brought huge devastation with winds topping 100 mph.
“It was a storm [like] I have never heard before, and I’ve lived here all my life,” said Theresa Martinez.
People on Ruby Lane are still in disbelief a tornado could even hit in Alamogordo between the mountains.
“You can’t comprehend that with your mind until you’re seeing it, you know?” Martinez said. “We just grabbed our animals, threw them in the house and went to the area where there’s no windows and waited it out.”
KRQE News 13 is told an elderly man was trapped inside his destroyed mobile home. He suffered minor injuries. Wind speeds up to 105 mph damaged other houses and flattened fences and sheds, sending sheet metal and wood flying.
“Because of the rotation of the funnel, it came and literally impaled our camper,” Carlos Martinez said.
A silo also went flying, taking out a powerline and a shed in its path. The National Weather Service says this wasn’t your typical tornado. NWS believes it started as a dust devil that got sucked into a thunderstorm and intensified.
The damage zone is about 300 yards wide and 500 yards long. “So it was very short lived. We estimate the damage all took place in a matter of about five minutes or less,” NWS meteorologist Jason Laney said.
Closer into the city, places like the Alameda Park Zoo saw forceful straight-line winds, knocking out many of their trees. “You could just see the trees just coming down and it stopped right here over with some trees over by our alligators.”
Branches fell on top of enclosures, through no building damaged was reported and no animals injured. For the tornado victims, a relief that no one was seriously hurt.
“I mean, this is just stuff we can replace. All the neighbors are talking about helping each other,” Martinez said.
Based on the damage, the National Weather Service is classifying this as an EF-1 tornado. NWS says Otero County has only seen confirmed 17 tornadoes since the 1950s.