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April 9, 2001

High winds cause accidents, shut highways in area Friday

From Staff and Wire Reports

PECOS, April 9, 2001 - Department of Public Safety Troopers were busy Friday with numerous accidents that were blamed on the extremely high winds, blowing dust and poor visibility that affected areas throughout West Texas.

The most serious accident was reported at 1:51 p.m., on Friday when a dump truck and a sedan collided about six miles south of Pecos on Highway 17.

Pecos Emergency Medical Service personnel responded as well as the Jaws of Life Unit, which was needed to cut open the top of the vehicle to free the driver, who suffered leg injuries in the head-on collision. Another passenger in the car also was transported to Reeves County Hospital.

Emergency crews had to work in heavy dust and near-zero visibility conditions at times, and the Texas Department of Transportation closed Highway 17 south of Interstate 20 soon after that accident due to poor visibility. TxDOT officials said that Highway 17 was closed for approximately five hours between 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

TxDOT officials were also cautioning drivers along Farm-to-Market roads 869 and 2903, leading one lane of traffic through those areas as well. A partially downed utility pole created a hazard to traffic on FM 869 northwest of Verhalen.

Some Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD students were unable to go home after school due to the closure of Highway 17.

Students who live in the Lindsey Addition, Verhalen and Saragosa were kept at Pecos High School to wait for the road to be opened.

Several other less serious accidents were reported in the area due to the high winds. A truck tractor-trailer overturned near mile marker 218 on Interstate 10 with injuries reported at 2:57 p.m., while another truck tractor-trailer overturned along US 62/180 at 4:25 p.m.

A vehicle reportedly struck a traffic sign at 6:59 p.m. The location of that accident was unavailable.

Power lines were reported down about two to three miles south on US 285 on Farm-to-Market 1450 at 10:28 p.m.

All accident and power line information was according to DPS reports.

The highest wind gusts recorded at Pecos Municipal Airport came in at just under 62 mph on Friday, and other areas of West Texas and Eastern New Mexico reported even higher winds and more severe damage.

In Amarillo, no injuries were reported, but wind gusts reached up to 90 mph, said City Manager Alan Taylor.

In Artesia, N.M., officials canceled afternoon school bus runs because of the high winds and parents were called to pick up their children. The district has about 1,800 students, and Superintendent Mike Phipps said it was hard even to stand up outdoors.

In the El Paso area, Wind gusts between 65 and 75 mph were recorded for about three hours Friday, and were the fifth-strongest recorded in the past 50 years, John Fausett, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Santa Teresa, N.M. told the El Paso Times. The strongest wind gust was measured at 84 mph on March 10, 1977.

Trans Mountain Road was closed at 2 p.m. because of the high gusts. The winds affected Pecos' high school track team in Canutillo for the District 2-4A meet. Track competition was delayed while the winds were allowed to die down, and pole vault competitors east of El Paso in San Elizario also had their competition hampered by the high winds.

No serious wind-related injuries had been reported in El Paso by Friday evening, but workers were busy across the region cleaning up debris from downed trees and some billboards.

In San Elizario, the wind was blowing so hard that "people had to put their headlights on to see the cars in front of them," Magda Salido said.

"The minute you walk outside you start eating dirt," she said.

Volunteers help committee with clean-up on south side

Staff Writer

PECOS, April 9, 2001 - More than 60 volunteers picked up trash Saturday morning as part of the Keep Pecos Beautiful Clean-Up

"This was our best effort yet," said Michael Benavides, the executive director of the Keep Pecos Beautiful Committee. "Participation is growing every time we do this."

Benavides said that the committee was formerly known as the Pecos Beautification Committee.

"This was our first event as a new committee and it was a great success," he said.

Benavides said that volunteers included students from Irma Benavides math class at Odessa College, employees from Duncan Disposal and Wal-Mart, and city officials including Mayor Ray Ortega, City Manager Carlos Yerena, and City Councilmen Larry Levario and Ricky Herrera.

"Jimmy Dutchover's kids from Lamar got us started on Friday," Benavides said. "They picked up the area between Gibson's and St. Catherine's Church and the lot behind the Showtime building."

The Lamar students were out early enough in the morning to avoid the high winds that hit the area shortly before noontime. On Saturday volunteers started at 8 a.m. under clear skies, and by lunchtime the crew had picked up trash along West County Road, Lincoln Street, two lots near Pecos Nursing home, along Cedar Street, and along Walthall Street.

"Duncan Disposal volunteered their trucks and that was a great help," Benavides said. "We just sacked up the trash and left it beside the road and the guys from Duncan picked it up and compacted it. That made things go twice as fast."

Benavides said that the committee is planning another clean up before Rodeo Week in late June and early July.

RCH happy with Health Fair turnout

Staff Writer

PECOS, April 9, 2001 - The lines were long for testing and other services Saturday morning, as people turned out early for the 14th Annual Reeves County Health Fair, held at the Reeves County Hospital.

"After looking at everything we determined that about 1,000 individuals had come through the health fair," said Reeves County Hospital Director of Program Development Nancy Ontiveros.

Lines for testing and inoculations stretched out into the lobby from the rear of the hospital even before the health fair officially opened at 8 a.m., and for the first time ever, the group ran out of the free pancakes served in the morning, according to Ontiveros.

There were about 300 individuals who took advantage of the low cost lab work and 167 immunizations. "One of the benefits identified during the immunizations and the reason the numbers weren't that high, is that some of had errors on the immunization cards," said Ontiveros.

For instance, some parents had more than one immunization card for the child and they identified that the child had already been immunized and was current on his vaccines, according to Ontiveros. "On some they found that the child had already had the varicella vaccine, which is one of the immunizations that was offered and popular one requested," said Ontiveros.

She added that the practitioners saw twice that many patients during the vaccinations as the 167 who were immunized.

"We had wonderful support from the community, especially in that area," said Ontiveros. "We had to change the location of the immunizations, because of the terrible weather we had Friday, so some people had trouble finding them, but it worked really well."

Originally, health fair committee members had said the immunizations were to take place in a tent located outside the hospital, but because of the high winds and blowing dust on Friday, the location was changed and the immunizations took place indoors instead.

Texas Department of Human Services was very pleased with the immunization program, according to Ontiveros. "They said they realized we were a community that wants to take care of their own," she said.

This was very positive news and as a result, the director, Dr. Miguel Escovedo will be here tomorrow to discuss other projects.

"He wants to work with us on other projects, because he said we were a proactive community," said Ontiveros. "He has some wonderful ideas, and another benefit is that the director of nursing is from Pecos, Mary Urquidez."

"All the exhibitors were pleased with the turnout and response to their booths," said Ontiveros said. However, she did say there was a very low count of blood donations on Saturday.

"We only collected about 15 units and 25 people deferred because they had been recently ill or on antibiotics," said Ontiveros.

"The director of United Blood Services said this spring had been a difficult one in collecting blood because of the illnesses, but they were very pleased with turnout, and amount of staff," said Ontiveros. "He said they were still very busy."

All the car seats were distributed and the group hopes to have them again for a summer project, in conjunction with a migrant program.

"We already making plans for next year's event with a meeting planned for next week," said Ontiveros.

During that meeting the group will set the date for the 2002 health fair, evaluate this year's, target problem areas and things they want to accomplish at next year's event, according to Ontiveros.

"The number of exhibitor's was up and we attribute that the community," said Ontiveros. "We look at what services the community needs and wants and we make contact with those agencies and services," she said.

The barbecue lunch was a success and the group almost ran out of barbecue. "They almost ran out of barbecue," said Ontiveros.

"Most importantly we want to thank the community for their support, this is a community project, there were so many individuals and organizations that contributed and without their assistance this wouldn't be possible," said Ontiveros.

Library to display Internet computers during open House

PECOS, April 9, 2001 - An Open House will be held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., today at the Reeves County Library.

The event is being held to present to the Reeves County community the library's new gift to all, and given by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: four computers with Internet access (three in English and one in Spanish). A Gates Foundation trainer will be in the library this afternoon.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

PHS band pictures scheduled April 17

PECOS, April 9, 2001 - Lifetouch will be taking pictures of the Pecos High School Band Students, on Tuesday, April 17.

A variety of packages will be available to choose from, but must be paid in advance.

For more information, call 447-7222 or contact Mrs. Alexander at 447-4264 after 7 p.m.


Rebecca Sanchez and Audelia Cobos


PECOS, April 9, 2001 - High Sunday 96. Low this morning 54. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Low in the mid 50s. South wind 10 to 20 mph. Tuesday: Partly cloudy and windy: With isolated afternoon thunderstorms. High near 90. Southwest wind 20 to 30 mph and gusty. The chance of rain is less than 20 percent. Tuesday night: Isolated evening thunderstorms: Otherwise partly cloudy. Low around 50. The chance of rain is less than 20 percent. Wednesday: Partly cloudy. High in the mid 80s.

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