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Monday winds in Colorado Springs area: Brutal? Yes. Historic? Probably not.

By: matt steiner matt.steiner@gazette.com
January 9, 2017 Updated: January 10, 2017 at 6:10 am
0
photo - Title 	Windstorm
Date 	November 22, 1900
Photographer 	Garrett, John W., 1865-1937
Description 	Large trees uprooted by a windstorm in Colorado Springs. Note on back reads "400 block South Cascade. Lady here had two of the uprooted trees re-planted and they survived." Photo is stamped "Nov. 22 1900" on back.
Location 	Colorado Springs (Colo.)
Subjects 	Cascade Avenue (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Storms
Trees
Cascade Avenue (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Folder Name 	Colorado Springs - Storms (1900)
Image number 	001-3532
Collection name 	Margaretta M. Boas Photograph Collection
Collection number 	MSS 0001
Title Windstorm Date November 22, 1900 Photographer Garrett, John W., 1865-1937 Description Large trees uprooted by a windstorm in Colorado Springs. Note on back reads "400 block South Cascade. Lady here had two of the uprooted trees re-planted and they survived." Photo is stamped "Nov. 22 1900" on back. Location Colorado Springs (Colo.) Subjects Cascade Avenue (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Storms Trees Cascade Avenue (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Folder Name Colorado Springs - Storms (1900) Image number 001-3532 Collection name Margaretta M. Boas Photograph Collection Collection number MSS 0001 

The damaging winds that pushed up to 101 mph Monday knocked down trees, caused power outages and tipped semis. There's no question that the windstorm that left the region scrambling was a strong one. But was it historically strong?

"The magnitude is way up there," said Steve Hodanish, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo Monday. "But's still too early to say if it's historic."

The forecaster said the damage was more devastating than typical strong windstorms along the Front Range. He said the weather service is used to seeing "trees down and shingles coming off buildings, but not large pieces of roof" separating from their structures.

Though the winds Monday were brutal, they weren't the fastest the state has ever seen and may not have been the worst in the region.

Front page of the Nov. 22, 1900, Colorado Springs Gazette 

Research revealed that more than 115 years ago a similar storm pounded the Pikes Peak area. In November 1900, The Gazette's headline read, "Worst Storm in History of City: From noon to midnight the wind played havoc." During that storm, buildings also lost their roofs and trees were uprooted across the city. The writer called it "24 hours of terror." The article went on to say that, "people are huddled in their homes, hoping, praying that a calamity may not overtake them."

The winds Monday were so bad that they prompted the opening of the Colorado Springs Emergency Operations Center, which is only used for widespread emergencies. Colorado Springs spokesperson Kim Melchor said the last time the center opened for high winds was in December 2010 when gusts of more than 85 mph caused serious damage in the area.

On Monday, the fastest gust reported was 101 mph near Cheyenne Mountain. That's fast enough to be in the range of a Category 2 hurricane but not even close to being the fastest in the state.

The fastest Colorado wind gust ever recorded was 201 mph on Longs Peak in the winter of 1981. That was recorded during a special project by the Rocky Mountain Nature Association. The fastest gust recorded by the National Weather Service was 148 mph in Monarch Pass in February 2016.

Hodanish called Monday's wind a "mountain wave." He said the conditions were just right with a very strong jet stream and "high wind profile in the atmosphere." The wave conditions usually happen just east of the mountains and bring high winds pouring down the slopes to the west, he said.

"It's breaking right over Colorado Springs," Hodanish observed at about noon on Monday.

Hodanish said those kind of windstorms are common along the Front Range and are usually felt in the Colorado Springs area west of Interstate 25. In the case with Monday's "mountain wave," the winds were so strong that the entire city had fallen victim to the powerful gusts.

The localized storm left the higher elevations and western plains dealing with wind, but nothing like what Colorado Springs witnessed.

Teller County to the west and areas like Pueblo, which are a good distance east of the mountain, only experienced normal January winds by noon Monday. Hodanish said the turbulent weather began as a "big Pacific system," hit California over the weekend, and then blew into Colorado, New Mexico and other states nearby.

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