Updated: April 3, 2011 at 12:00 am
Ben Maney heard a loud crack outside his girlfriend’s house at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning. It was late, Maney said, and he didn’t think anything of it.
A couple hours later, he realized his mistake: A tree was resting on the side of his tan sedan.
“This is like something that happens in one of those insurance commercials — you never think it’s going to happen to you,” Maney said.
Hurricane-force winds left trees strewn across the ground Sunday, the precursor to a powerful storm that was forecast to cover those fallen branches with a fresh batch of much-needed rain, sleet and snow Sunday night.
A day after record-high temperatures in Colorado Springs, forecasters on Sunday were calling for 1-3 inches of snow for Monument and Woodland Park, said Patrick Cioffi, National Weather Service meteorologist. A mix of rain and snow was forecast for lower elevations, including Colorado Springs, which was expected to see about an inch of snow.
Ushering in the storm were powerful down-slope winds that wreaked havoc on the city’s power grid.
A weather spotter 1 mile southwest of the Colorado Springs Airport recorded an 87 mph gust of wind at 1:07 a.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. Gusts also topped 80 mph a little south of Monument and the Air Force Academy.
After the sun rose, gusts topped out at 55 mph at the Colorado Springs Airport, with sustained winds clocking in at 45 mph, Cioffi said.
Dwight Vance and a crew of three spent Sunday morning cutting apart a massive tree that fell between two vehicles outside his downtown Colorado Springs house. The tree nicked a 4-door sedan but spared the other vehicle any damage.
“We’re just going to cut it up and use it for firewood,” said Vance, over the sound of a chainsaw. “It’s just sad to lose a big, old tree, you know?”
Winds toppled trees and broke branches onto power lines, leaving at least 16 Colorado Springs Utilities crews to rush across town repairing the outages Sunday.
Roughly 600 people were without power by 10:30 a.m. Sunday, though power was restored to about 90 percent of those customers by Sunday evening, said Gabriel Romero, a Utilities spokesman. Most outages affected only a few customers each, complicating matters for repair crews.
“It’s been absolutely crazy, to say the least,” Romero said. “It’s the most power outages we’ve had in many, many years.”
At the Colorado Springs Airport, strong crosswinds caused airlines to cancel two flights early Sunday morning, said Troy Stover, the airport’s operations manager.
Later in the day, a Cessna went off the side of the airport’s east runway after landing and flipped onto its top, he said.
Two people were inside the aircraft when it flipped, though neither was hurt. It is unknown whether the wind played a part in the crash, Stover said, and the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident.
On Saturday, Colorado Springs residents got their first taste of summer, when a record-high temperature of 80 degrees hit the city.
The temperature broke a record of 73 degrees set in 2007. The heat, however, was a double-edged sword. As people basked in the warmth, firefighters northeast of the city had to beat down a 15-acre wildfire.
Forecasters warned that the fire danger should soon return.
“We’re going to warm right back up again on Tuesday,” Cioffi said.
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