Eagle Nest ‘landspout’ damages Eagle Nest business, vehicles, RVs

The rare tornado that touched down in Eagle Nest last week damaged a local business, vehicles, a barn and several RVs.

“This is the first documented tornado in the Moreno Valley since at least 1950,” noted a damage survey published online by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service in Albuquerque, “A landspout tornado produced a narrow swath of damage [2.3 miles, with a maximum width of 80 yards] near Eagle Nest during the early afternoon of Thursday (Aug. 9). The tornado crossed U.S. 64 very near Elk Lane Rd. tracking slightly north of due east until dissipating over the northeast portion of Eagle Nest Lake.”

For its survey Friday (Aug. 10). National Weather Service staff interviewed several individuals who witnessed the event including Don Embler, the owner of Pepper Sauce Camp near the intersection of Elk Lane Rd. and U.S. 64.

“The damage is extensive,” Embler told The Chronicle. “I lost 18 windows, including door window, my straw barn has been completely obliterated and scattered over four acres, so I have a large clean-up effort underway. All the windows got blown out on my Volkswagon Beetle and my antique farm truck windows got blown out, too.

“Eighteen windows will have to be replaced, all the glass and some body work on the truck/VW, the 16×18 barn is just a pile of straw with a 4 acre debris field and a few roof/siding issues to attend. I’ve already collected about 50 pieces of metal on the 1/2 mile path down Elk Lane to the lake. Today we’ll be tackling the bigger items strewn across the southern acres… oh boy!

“I’m still waiting to hear from my insurance company.”

(Courtesy Photo / Linda Butler)
According to the National Weather Service report, “All 10 units that comprise the [Pepper Sauce Camp] property suffered damage. All but two of 16 west-facing windows were partially or completely destroyed by flying debris. Windows and storm doors at the main building were partially or completely busted. A small car [the Beetle] that was parked and facing east had all but the front windshield busted out. The bed of an old truck used as a marketing sign was lifted and carried about 50 feet toward the southwest. The front windshield of an old Chevrolet C65 truck was struck no less than 75 times by flying debris but remained intact while both side windows were completely busted out. An old hay barn was collapsed and roofing material found 300 feet away.”

A pile of hay and debris are all that remain of a hay barn at the Pepper Sauce Camp following a rare landspout tornado that formed in Eagle Nest Thursday (Aug. 9). (Courtesy Photo / Don Embler, Pepper Sauce Camp)
Part of the Pepper Sauce Camp’s unique canoe sign is seen wrapped around a New Mexico State Highway Department sign. (Courtesy Photo / Don Embler, Pepper Sauce Camp)
The state highway right of way was also damaged, the report noted. “Immediately west of the PCS, approximately 180 feet of barbed wire/picket fence was downed and damaged. Several steel t-posts were sheared or bent nearly 90-degrees.

Ronnie Trujillo, Eagle Nest Patrol Supervisor for the New Mexico Department of Transportation, confirmed, “It took out about 900 feet of our fence (snow fencing and barbed wire) when it came across.”

The tornado also affected the nearby campground at Eagle Nest Lake State Park.

“An unoccupied “fifth wheel” recreational vehicle with an estimated weight of 12,000 pounds was partially lifted, shifted and rolled on its side,” the report stated. “Two other RVs sustained damage to include busted windows, including a Class A diesel pusher (dry weight 32,000 pounds) that was oriented nearly perpendicular to the tornado’s path. The owners from Oklahoma were at the site when the landspout tornado first formed but quickly vacated their RV and sought shelter at the nearby visitor center. Only pea-sized hail was
reported at the campground. Damage was the result of significant flying debris that was lofted at least 7 feet AGL [above ground level].”

Despite the damage, with an estimated peak wind speed of 85 miles per hour, this landspout is classfied as “weak” under the Enhanced Fujita scale (EF-Scale), which classifies tornadoes into the following categories.

  • EF0…Weak……65 TO 85 mph
  • EF1…Weak……86 TO 110 mph
  • EF2…Strong….111 TO 135 mph
  • EF3…Strong….136 TO 165 mph
  • EF4…Violent…166 TO 200 mph
  • EF5…Violent…>200 mph

The report noted, “A landspout tornado is a type of non-supercell tornado whereby low-level rotation originates near the ground and quickly ascends toward the base of a rapidly growing thunderstorm. [The Eagle Nest tornado] had a classically narrow condensation funnel cloud and formed in a vast open area just west of U.S. 64 between mile markers 283 and 284 [by the Pepper Sauce Cap].… Elevations along the track ranged from approximately 8,350 feet to 8,175 feet MSL [mean sea level].

“The landspout tornado also exhibited anti-cyclonic or clockwise rotation during its entire lifecycle, which is not common.”

The full preliminary report can be viewed here

(Courtesy Photo / Don Embler, Pepper Sauce Camp)
(Courtesy Photo / Don Embler, Pepper Sauce Camp)