Apr 6, 2024 - News

Exceptionally strong 100+ mph winds expected in parts of Colorado

Image: Courtesy of the National Weather Service

Coloradans, hang onto your hats. The foothills and some mountain areas are bracing for extreme and likely damaging winds Saturday and into Sunday.

By the numbers: Wind gusts are expected to reach 60-70 mph on the plains and 65-90 mph west of Interstate 25, according to the National Weather Service's online forecast discussion.

  • For wind-prone areas near or at the base of the foothills, gusts are expected to exceed 100 mph.

The latest: Interstate 25 has closed at Wellington, north of Fort Collins, to all high-profile and commercial vehicles, as winds continue to strengthen.

  • Rocky Mountain Regional Airport near Broomfield experienced a wind gust clocking in at 69 mph, while the Wind Technology Center southeast of Boulder reported a gust of 75 mph, the NWS' Boulder office said around 2pm Saturday.
  • Meanwhile, hundreds of flights have been delayed at Denver International Airport and more than a dozen have been canceled, per FlightAware.

Between the lines: This is occurring as an area of low pressure rapidly intensifies over northeastern Colorado and Nebraska, prompting westerly winds to accelerate down the slopes of the eastern Rockies. These are known as Chinook winds, Axios' climate reporter Andrew Freedman reports.

Threat level: "Critical fire weather conditions" as well as "widespread" power outages, broken tree limbs, property damage and flying dust are expected through noon Sunday, meteorologists predict.

  • Coloradans are advised to avoid windows, watch for falling debris and to not drive high-profile or lightweight vehicles during the strongest winds.

What they're saying: "Model guidance is showing the highest wind gust speeds that I have seen in my seven and a half years in this office," an NWS meteorologist wrote in the online discussion.

  • "Perhaps the only thing that could throw a wrench into the forecast could be more moisture and snowfall in the mountains due to a more westerly track of the system," the forecaster noted.

State of play: Xcel Energy is shutting off power lines starting at 3pm Saturday and into Sunday.

  • Roughly 55,000 customers will be affected — particularly in Boulder County, and some parts of Gilpin, Jefferson, Larimer, Douglas and Broomfield counties, as well as the West Denver metro area along the foothills.
  • The move comes after the energy company was found at least partially responsible for the Marshall Fire in Boulder in 2021 — the most destructive in state history — and accepted responsibility for downed power poles that sparked this year the largest wildfire in Texas history.
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