Hurricane-force winds swept across Colorado on Monday, tipping over tractor-trailers, blowing off shingles, and knocking out power ahead of a cold front expected to bring bone-chilling temperatures to much of the state.
A wind gust in Golden, just west of Denver reached 98 mph, a speed found in Category 2 hurricanes. The National Weather Service also said a 95-mph gust hit 10,000-foot Kenosha Pass in the mountains about 50 miles southwest of Denver and an 88-mph gust was reported outside Boulder.
"The snow was swirling all over the place," said Penelope Walker, an assistant manager at the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, which shortened its runs Monday. Walker said wind gusts reached an estimated 60 mph to 70 mph along the track that rises from 6,500 feet in Manitou Springs to the 14,110-foot summit of Pikes Peak west of Colorado Springs.
"It can make it dangerous to take the train. That's why we won't run very far," she said.
The blustery conditions came ahead a cold front that sent temperatures plummeting across the northern Rockies. It was 1 degree in Havre, Mont., on Monday afternoon but it felt like minus-5. The forecast high in West Yellowstone, Mont., was just 4 degrees on Wednesday and only 12 degrees in Denver.
At least 10 semi trailers were blown over between Fort Collins and Cheyenne, Wyo., said Stacey Stegman, spokeswoman for Colorado Department of Transportation.
The wind picked up before dawn and by the morning rush hour was blowing garbage cans down the streets of central Denver. Snow that fell several days ago was blown into ever-shifting trails that stung the face of commuters hurrying to get to their cars or waiting for the bus. The high winds were expected to die down after nightfall Monday, forecasters said.
A roofer working in Broomfield, south of Boulder, said he received several phone calls from homeowners returning home from work and discovering minor roof damage.
"I went into this one cul-de-sac and there were shingles blown all over the place, all over the street," said Matt McKinley of A All Phase Roofing.
Scattered power outages hit the Denver area, closing at least four schools in the northern suburbs, said Janelle Albertson, spokeswoman for Adams 12 Five-Star Schools.
Accidents were reported across the state and "most of them are probably related to the weather," state Patrol Trooper Eric Wynn said. An empty single-engine plane at the Jefferson County airport was flipped over on its top.
The 98 mph-gust at Golden fell far short of the 147 mph record in the area set in January 1971 in Boulder, said Carl Burroughs of the weather service office in Boulder. He said the region was stuck in between high and low pressure areas.
"It's like funneling -- when the river gets real narrow, the water runs faster until it widens out," he said. "It makes the wind blow stronger when you get that tighter pressure gradient."