126-mph gust hits Colorado mountains; trucks toppled
December 31, 2011
DENVER – High winds buffeted Colorado for a second day Saturday, with a 126-mph blast reported in the mountains and gusts near 70 mph reported on the plains.
At least three semis were toppled by the wind in the Denver area, and ski areas delayed the opening of some lifts until the winds subsided in the afternoon.
Wind-related power failures were reported in the ski town of Breckenridge and elsewhere in the state.
The 126-mph gust was recorded at 5 a.m. by an automated National Weather Service station at a remote site in Summit County 12,000 feet above sea level.
It was not a record for the state. National Park Service rangers have said winds in excess of 200 mph have been measured atop the 14,259-foot Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.
A gust of 69 mph was reported in Wray, about 140 miles east of Denver near the Nebraska border.
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A semi that was parked on the shoulder of E-470 in the southeast Denver metro area was blown over, and two semis were toppled on U.S. 85 north of Denver, Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Mike Baker said.
All three drivers reported minor injuries, Baker said.
Accidents, high winds and debris on roadways closed some highways intermittently throughout the day. High-profile vehicles were barred from a 180-mile stretch of Interstate 76 between Denver and the northeast corner of the state Saturday morning, but the restriction was lifted later.
Aspen, Breckenridge and Winter Park ski areas delayed the openings of some lifts and gondolas because of the wind.
A high-wind warning was issued for a wide swath of the high plains from the southern borders of Colorado and Kansas to the Canadian border. The warning encompassed all of eastern Colorado.
The Summit Daily News reported that about 5,000 customers lost electric power in Breckenridge on Saturday morning. The Denver Post reported that 19,000 homes lost electricity at scattered locations statewide.
Officials of Xcel Energy didn’t immediately return a call.
Gusts of up to 102 mph were reported in Colorado Friday.