February 15, 2014 Updated: February 15, 2014 at 6:18 pm
Winds with speeds that would get you a ticket on Interstate 25 blasted Colorado Springs on Saturday, tossing barbecues and garbage cans and snapping trees, including several that hit homes, the National Weather Service said.
The trees that fell in the face of gusts that hit 85 mph in the Pikes Peak region included a towering evergreen that smashed a house near Cheyenne Road and O'Malley Place near Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School.
"You are getting brute force winds off the mountains and blowing downslope," said Makoto Moore, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Pueblo.
The gusts were driven by a shift in the jet stream that shot the fast moving air through the Pikes Peak region. While the wind did serious damage in some areas, it also melted away what snow was left on the ground from recent storms as high temperatures in Colorado Springs neared 60 degrees.
The gusts did cool off the ardor of some nature lovers who turned out for the annual Bighorn Sheep Day at Garden of the Gods.
Scores of people gather every February to honor Colorado's state animal and spot a few of them in Queen's Canyon, just north of the park.
Eleven of the sheep were spotted by early birds, but then the wind gained force.
"When the wind picked up, they went away," said state Department of Parks and Wildlife volunteer Jeremy Agnew.
Sheep enthusiasts explained that the animals can tolerate almost anything - a herd of 70 survived the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012. But they loathe wind, which reduces their ability to listen for predators.
Bighorn will find Sunday more to their liking. The wind will stick around, but gusts are expected to stay at relatively sedate speeds of 20 mph as temperatures hover near 60 degrees.
Saturday's gusts produced consistent speeds of 65-75 mph at the Air Force Academy and caused mayhem through the region.
"It was picking up garbage cans and barbecues if they weren't tied down," Moore said.
To the south of Colorado Springs, visibility on Interstate 25 and other highways was reduced to 400 yards by blowing dust from agricultural fields, Moore said.
Winds died down after noon, and high wind warnings for the region were allowed to expire.
Gusts in the 20s and 30s are expected to stick around for much of the week.
The next storm system is due to sweep through the region Wednesday, bringing a 20 percent chance of rain or snow showers.