Belen: Golf ball-sized hail pounded the Belen area hard Sunday afternoon, causing hundreds of people to scramble for safety.

Residents and business owners are still cleaning up broken glass and picking up fallen leaves and branches left by a storm Sunday afternoon that produced hail so large that it shattered glass, sliced through trees and killed birds. While there were no reports of major injuries, damage from the storm is widespread.

The Belen Consolidated Schools sustained substantial damage to several facilities as well as damage to approximately 30 school buses, which resulted in school being cancelled Monday.

Superintendent Patricia Rael said H.T. Jaramillo Community School was the hardest hit, with windows broken out in five classrooms on the north side and glass blown onto books and chairs.

"The damage is quite extensive," Rael said. "We've almost got it all cleaned up, but we've got some issues to deal with. Thank God no one got hurt."

She said a teacher was working in her classroom at H.T. Jaramillo Sunday afternoon when the hailstorm hit. While the damage to other school property was widespread, Rael said it was not as extensive as what the community school experienced.

Belen Emergency Manager Tommy Sanchez said the city is still in the process of estimating damage to city properties. Sanchez said many city vehicles were damaged as well as windows at city hall, the municipal court building and the fire department. He said most of the damage caused during Sunday's storm was to private properties throughout the city.

"Our main priority was the fiestas (at Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church)," Sanchez said. "We got word from the National Weather Service that a storm was coming and (the fiestas) was where there was the most concentration of people. After the initial storm passed, we made the decision to close it down because of a lighter storm coming in behind it."

Sanchez said city workers are busy cleaning up the aftermath of the storm by clearing streets of debris. The city is also supplying dumpsters at Anna Becker Park and city hall for residents to take their debris.

"This storm affected every neighborhood in the city," Sanchez said. "I've lived here all my life, and I don't remember ever seeing golf ball-sized hail."

Sanchez said while he didn't see a tornado, he did receive reports from people seeing a funnel cloud in Los Lunas, and another sighting near the county fairgrounds.

William Dean, who lives just north of Belen, said the temperature plumeted from 83 degrees at 4:03 p.m. to 56 degrees at 4:28 - almost 30 degrees in the course of 25 minutes.

The maximum wind gust was clocked at more than 84 miles per hour - Dean said that it might have been stronger since his gauge was bent over with the wind.

He said he saw some chunks made up of several hailstones frozen together that were four to five inches across.

Bryan Mascareña, one of the organizers of the fiestas, was at the annual event Sunday afternoon when Belen City Councilor Wayne Gallegos made the announcement of the tornado warning. He said everyone was moved into the parish hall, the church or the faith formation center.

"Some of us stayed outside trying to put things away or in a safe position," Mascareña said. "At first, I went to hide under the stage, but I wasn't sure if they turned off the power, so I ran under the tent. We stayed there for about five minutes, but once there was a break, we ran into the parish hall. People in the parish hall were praying."

Mascareña said a lot of the tents were shredded, benches were blown away, the grounds were a mess and the area was filled with water. Many of the vehicles parked at the church were damaged, including several of the sheriff department's units as well as its mobile command center.

"All in all, the fiestas were big success for us," Mascareña said. "The main thing is that God helped us and nobody was hurt. If they wouldn't have made that call to get everyone inside, or even if it was 10 minutes later, I think we would have lost some people."

Several people who were outside in the storm and pelted with the ice showed large bruises that broke open and bled.

Valencia County Fire Chief Charles Eaton was at home in Belen when the storm rolled in. As in the homes of many of his neighbors, several of his north-facing windows were broken.

"During the whole event, we never had any calls," Eaton said. "It was actually really quiet, and as far as we know, there were no major injuries." He said Belen was the hardest hit area, but residents in Rio Communities and Jarales are also cleaning up broken glass and fallen leaves.

"We did get reports of funnel clouds," he added. "Three or four witnesses said they saw a tornado touch down in the bosque area. We've gone down there and there is damage - some of the trees are uprooted."

The widespread damage to homes and businesses in Belen had insurance agencies, auto body repair services and glass shops very busy Monday morning. Several insurance agencies had their phones ringing off the hook and, at times, customers were lined up, going out of the doors.

"You wouldn't believe how busy we are," said Rose Moya of Phil's Glass. "We started working (Sunday night), and we haven't stopped since. We're getting calls on everything for broken windows and windshields. I'm still trying to return messages.

"Everyone wants it now - today - but that's impossible," she added. "We can take as many as we can, but we've been very busy and the phone just keeps ringing and ringing."

Mike Chavez, the maintenance supervisor at Super 8 Motel in Belen, said all the windows on the north side of the building were broken. He said no one was hurt, but the night clerk was pretty shaken up.

"We began boarding them up that night, and we're in the process of cleaning everything up," Chavez said. "It was a pretty slow night that night for us, and we only had a couple of guests on that side of the building. We were able to transfer those guests into other rooms. Actually, one tenant slept through the whole thing."

Belen resident Tommie Cordova and her granddaughter had just left church in Jarales when the storm hit. She said they were on their way back to her house on Dalies Avenue when the hail began hammering the truck so hard that it broke the windshield.

"We got back here, and it was still hailing," Cordova said as she was standing on the porch of her home. "It broke my living room window and my bedroom window. I was so scared, and it was still coming when I got home. The living room was full of hail inside."

Cordova, like many other Belen residents, is continuing pick up little pieces of glass from carpets and furniture. Kitchen pans are strategically placed in her kitchen from the leaky roof.

Her neighbors, Bill and Linda Crow, didn't fare too well either. The couple was at home, but weren't aware of the impending storm.

"I don't remember what we were doing exactly, but when it hit, we got real busy quick," Bill Crow said. "All of a sudden, the glass was breaking and coming into the front and living room, and the hail coming in."

"I was trying to stay safe, and he was trying to hold towels over the windows," Linda Crow said. "It was very scary. I thought someone was throwing rocks at the house at first. Then it sounded like gunshots."

In all, 24 panes of glass were broken on the Crows' home, and there are numerous dents in the structure's siding. The couple's fifth wheel camper was also damaged, including the skylights, air conditioner cover and refrigerator vent cover.

"As we were cleaning up outside, we found four dead turtle doves out there," Bill Crow said. "It's very sad."

Christine Ward, who lives on Martha Jean Drive in Belen, was at home with her husband and two young sons when the storm was approaching. She said they made a mad rush to try and take their truck to her husband's work site to put it in a garage, but their efforts were unsuccessful. The truck sustained a broken taillight, windshield and hail damage to the entire vehicle.

"We tried, but we didn't make it," Ward said. "We made it to the end of the road before we had to turn around. We were scared - I thought the windows were going to break, it was coming down so hard. I told (the boys) to get on the floor and not to get up. It's awful because we've only had our truck six months and it just got rear ended and we just got out of the shop a couple of months ago."

Barbara Horton, with lives at the corner of 10th Street and Castillo was inside her house when she saw a tornado warning on TV while her husband was outside in their motor home. She said she took cover in the hallway as the storm approached.

"I couldn't go out of my house because it was coming down so hard," Horton said. "It was just pelting the house and the windows. I looked out toward the front and one of the curtains was blowing, and that's when I realized that all our windows were broken."

Eileen Brubaker and her daughter, Stephanie Crownover, were at a birthday party at Daniel Fernandez Park in Los Lunas when the storm hit Belen. They were shocked when they arrived at Crownover's mobile home on east Camino del Llano and saw all the damage.

"My daughter's house got destroyed," Brubaker said. "It broke every window on the north side and took her roof off. It looked liked someone got a machine gun and shot out her skirting."

Brubaker said her daughter's mobile home, which is the only one on the block that faces east and west, is now unlivable. She said the only electricity that works in the house is in the living room.

"We're still picking up glass. The blinds were shredded into tiny pieces as if they were in a blender. It is horrible," she said. "My daughter is fine, but if she would have been home, she'd be dead."

Louise Silva, who lives on South 10th Street, was at a casino Sunday afternoon when she received a frantic call from her son saying that there was an emergency and that she needed to return home.

"It scared me to death," Silva said of the phone call. "We were up at Isleta, and it was clear, so we had no idea what was going on. My son told me that the windows on the mobile home was busted out and that the house was leaking and the skylights are busted."

As Silva drove home, her mind was racing, wondering what she'd find. By the time she got into town, the brunt of the storm had already passed.

"The first thing we saw when we turned off the interstate was all the trees that were bare and the leaves everywhere," Silva said. "Our driveway and yard was full of leaves and flooded. I looked up and could see the skylights that were broken. When we went around to the back of the mobile home, we saw the skirting - it looks like someone got a gun and shot right through it."

Silva said her son told her that before the storm hit, the kids were lying on the couch watching TV when they heard the hail. She said when it got real bad, her son got up and the window broke, causing a small cut on his hand. Along with minor damage to several vehicles parked outside, the tall tree in her yard is bare - stripped much like many others around town.

"There was a lot of dead pigeons on the roof," Silva said. "They were split in half - just busted. I guess they didn't have sense enough to fly away or take cover."

Deborah Torres, who lives on Wisconsin Avenue, was at her mother-in-law's home next door when she got a call from a friend telling her of the tornado warning. She said that after the storm hit, she went home to assess the damage.

"I had glass all over my kitchen," said Torres, whose bedroom and laundry room windows also broke. "It just blew out the window. The dishes I had on the drain board and the sink were all shattered.

"Everything I had on the counter and the dishes in the sink were broken in shreds. Glass was all over the kitchen - there was glass everywhere."