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Storms cause power outage, lead to rescue

Staff Writer

ight of heavy rains and lightning meant a morning without power for most of downtown Pecos on Wednesday, while the strongest of the storms that passed through the Pecos area just after midnight resulted in police pulling two women and a 3-year-old girl from a drainage culvert on Interstate 20 at Country Club Drive.

The rains were part of a cold front that passed through West Texas late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. According to the National Weather Service reporting station at Pecos Municipal Airport, 3.25 inches of rain fell during a 12-hour period, with 1.99 inches of that coming between midnight at 1 a.m.

The heavy rains on the south side of town near the airport also caused flooding of area streets, and resulted in a vehicle being driven by an El Paso woman landing in a drainage culvert when she missed the entrance to the Town and Country Food Store on the south side of I-20 at Country Club Drive.

“She couldn’t tell where the entrance was, and she just kind of drove over that,” said officer Juan Prieto, who pulled the driver, along with a mother from New Mexico and her 3-year-old daughter, out of the car.

“There was about a foot of water in the street when I got out of the car,” he said, adding there was also about a foot of water inside the vehicle, which had its front end submerged in the drainage culvert.

“I got the driver’s side back door open and took the little girl and put her in the back set of my car and then went back for the mother, and got her out and into the back seat,” Prieto said. The driver was then taken from the car and later, after that line of storms had left the area, some workers passing by in their truck were able to attach a chain to the car and pull it out of the culvert.

Despite landing in the water, the car was still drivable after it was pulled out of the culvert, and Prieto said the three drove across the street to the Swiss Clock Inn and spent the night there.

The power outage came from the third line of storms to pass through Pecos during the night. Lightning from that storm struck one of the three transformers online at the Texas-New Mexico Power Co. substation on North Elm Street. The lightning strike knocked out power to residents and businesses in an area between Peach and Palm streets, and stretching south from the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to 10th Street.

According to a press release from the company’s Fort Worth office, the outage occurred at 5:30 a.m. and continued until 11:50 a.m. Some downtown buildings had alternate power supplies, but the outage affected the U.S. Post Office and delayed Wednesday mail deliveries, as well as taking KIUN/KPTX radio off the air. KIUN was able to resume broadcasting with auxiliary generators about 8 a.m., while the FM station remained off the air through the morning.

T-NP has four transformers located at the Elm Street site, with one in place as a spare in case of incidents like Wednesday’s lightning strike. Local crews went to the scene just before sunrise, and spent the morning disconnecting the damaged transformer and connecting up the spare unit so that power could be restored.

“Our crews were on hand and able to respond quickly,” said Donald Hunt, customer relations manager for the company. He added that no crews from outside the Pecos office had to be brought in to handle the emergency.

The storm provided the Pecos area with its first measurable rain since July 1, while the cold front dropped the high temperature from 102 degrees on Tuesday to just 70 degrees on Wednesday. The 3.25-inch total for the day was the heaviest single-day figures in the past decade. The record for a single-day rainfall total was on May 22, 1992, when almost five inches of rain fell in the city.

Jobless totals up for month, down from last report

Staff Writer

Reeves County’s unemployment rate for June was down half a percent from the last report issued by the Texas Workforce Commission, but up one-tenth of a percent from May’s total, according to figures released by the agency last week.

TWC began using new formulas earlier this year to gauge jobless rates in Texas, but a problem with the new system resulted in the suspension of any jobless rate reports in April. Last week’s report was the first released in the past three months, and showed local unemployment fell from 9.1 to 8.6 percent during that time period, but was up from 8.5 percent in May.

According to the Workforce Commission, there were 4,309 people in the county’s labor force last month, up one from May and 12 from March, but down 63 from April. Of that total, 3,937 were employed, which compares with 3,907 in March, 3,999 in April and 3,944 in May.

The revised labor statistics, based on U.S. Census Bureau figures, resulted in the removal of over 25 percent of the estimated workforce in Reeves County that the TWC was using until this year. Those estimated numbers were based on 1990 census figures. The new calculation system also eliminated reports on jobless rates of Texas cities with less than 25,000 in population.

Other numbers for area counties in June were similar to those for Reeves County, as jobless rates rose slightly from May’s total, with the end of the 2004-05 school year. Midland County had the Permian Basin’s largest workforce, with 65,854 people and a 4.1 percent jobless rate. That’s up from 4 percent in May, as the county added 600 workers and 500 jobs; while Ector County (Odessa) saw it’s jobless rate climb from 4.9 to 5.1 percent, as the county lost just over 50 jobs while gaining just over 100 people in its labor force.

Andrews County’s rate went up from 4.5 to 4.8 percent; Brewster County’s rate increased from 3.4 to 3.5 percent; Crane County’s rate increased from 5.7 to 6 percent; Culberson County was up from 4.7 to 4.9 percent; Dawson County remained stable at 7 percent; Howard County’s rate went from 5.5 to 5.7 percent; Presidio County’s rate was up from 10.7 to 11.4 percent; Ward County’s rate was up from 6.2 to 6.5 percent; and Winkler County’s rate increased from 5.2 to 5.3 percent in June.

Pecos County was one of the only ones to see its jobless rate in June decline, as it fell from 5.2 to 5.1 percent. The county added 175 workers and 170 jobs, the TWC said. Loving County’s rate last month was 7 percent, which was down from 7.1 percent in May and 7.5 percent in June. The nation’s least-populated county has had three people on unemployment for all six months of 2005 reported by the TWC, while the workforce has changed from 37 in March and 39 in May to an even 40 people last month

Five from Odessa arrested in pot bust

U.S. Border Patrol and National Park Service personnel report seizing over 1 1/2 tons of marijuana and making five arrests, after stopping a van inside Big Bend National Park last week.

According to a report by the Customs and Border Protection Agency, officers from the Border Patrol’s Alpine Station in Big Bend National Park and National Park Rangers arrested two men in the van, which contained 3,144 pounds of marijuana worth $2.5 million. The arrests occurred about 7 p.m., on July 21, near the intersection of Glenn Springs Road and Park Route 12, south of Panther Junction.

The 1987 Ford Van contained 46 bales in sugar sacks and 159 plastic wrapped bundles of marijuana. The driver and the passenger were both U.S. Citizens with Odessa addresses. Three other people from Odessa, a woman and two men, were also arrested as possible accessories to the smuggling effort and their vehicle was seized. All five were U.S. citizens, and they, along with both vehicles and the drugs, were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration for prosecution.

The seizure was the second in a week for Marfa sector agents in which over a ton of marijuana was discovered.

On July 15, Juan Carlos Madrigal, 28, of Pecos, was arrested on a ranch between Marfa and Candelaria in Presidio County, after agents found a 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche stopped on the ranch with a flat tire, and with 2,200 pounds of marijuana inside the vehicle. The marijuana had an estimated street value of $1.7 million.

Since Jan. 1, 2005, Agents of the Marfa Sector have seized over $45.722 million in drugs including over 51,000 pounds marijuana. The Sector has also apprehended 6,703 illegal aliens during the same period.

GED tests set for next week

GED Testing will be held at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 2 and Wednesday, Aug. 3, at the Pecos High School Counselor’s Office.

Registration will be from 4-5 p.m., Monday, Aug. 1, at the counselors’ office. Examinees must present a Texas driver’s license or Texas Department of Public Safety ID and Social Security Card.

For more information call Pat Cobos/Eva Arriola, at Pecos High School Counselors at 447-7222.

First Choice offering cool tips, prizes

First Choice Power is celebrating having “cool customers” during the dog days of summer. Between Aug. 1 and Aug. 30, customers are invited to visit any of the company’s local offices to register to win a “cool” prize.

Each First Choice Power office in the company’s Texas service area will draw a winner on Wednesday, Aug. 31. Only one “cool” prize will be awarded per office, so customers should drop by soon for a chance to win, and to pick up a free Energy Management Guide with tips on how to conserve energy at home. They can also pick up a First Choice Power Smile for up to 20 percent savings at local restaurants and businesses.

“This is typically the hottest part of the summer in Texas, so our offices are doing something fun to help our customers keep their cool,” said John Menichini, First Choice Power vice president of Customer Operations. “Come celebrate with us!”

First Choice Power is the retail affiliate of Texas-New Mexico Power Company, which provides electric transmission and distribution service to more than 200,000 customers in Texas and complete electric service to 49,000 customers in New Mexico.

Gonzales receives degree from Tech

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center students from all campuses participated in a commencement ceremony May 21 at the United Spirit Arena. A total of 782 students received degrees from the schools of Medicine, Nursing, Allied Health Sciences, Pharmacy and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Sonia Gonzales, a student from Pecos, graduated from the School of Pharmacy at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

She is the daughter of Silveria and Jose Castillo of Pecos.

The Health Sciences Center has campuses in Amarillo, El Paso, Lubbock and Odessa, as well as programs in Dallas and Midland.

Commencement speaker was Roger J. Bulger, M.D., president of the Association of Academic Health Centers, which represents the health complexes of the nation’s major universities. Bulger served as president of the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston for 10 years prior to his appointment at the association in 1988.

Bulger, who served as chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center at Worcester and dean of its medical school from 1976 to 1978, is a recognized author on the health sciences and health policy with numerous published books.

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