Feeling still groggy from my 5:30 a.m. wake up, I try to focus on the road ahead. Making the turn onto Hurricane Hill, I spot flashing blue and red lights in the middle of the road from Nederland police vehicle. That’s weird, an accident at 6 a.m. on a Friday? That’s pretty strange for a dry road.
As I get closer, I’m trying to decide if I can drive by or if the road is completely blocked. Pulling up in front of the police car, I see there is more than a car blocking the way. A tree has fallen and is blocking the road. The police officer is standing in the middle of the road, hacking at the tree with an axe. He’s making good progress, but still this looks like it will take awhile, so I turn around and take an alternative route.
As I head off the other direction, I’m thinking to myself, only in the mountains, would other duties of a police officer including chopping a tree in half with an axe. Not your standard law enforcement duties.
As I continue through town, it become more clear why the police officer has to take over the clearing of trees. The fire trucks from the fire station are parked off on a side street with lights flashing – I have no idea what calamity has struck there that requires their assistance.
Much of this calamity has been brought about by the famous Chinook mountain winds. Chinooks means snow eater because of the warmth they bring, and warm it was. By 9 a.m. in Winter Park, Colorado, temperatures were a balmy 51 degrees. In Denver, the high temperature would reach 79 degrees, smashing the prior record high by a whopping 8 degrees.
But the Chinooks also bring velocity and speed with them, so much so that it forced the entire closure of Interstate 70 for up to 2 hours. The 90-100 mile per hour winds caused two tractor trailer trucks to be blown over on their side near Georgetown, Colorado.
Driving I-70 and over Berthoud Pass, I feel the force of these downsloping winds as my car shimmies and shakes back and forth. I find it difficult to control, as the steering wheel jerks in my hands.
The warm winds have also spurred wildfires along the Front Range, where brush fires south of Lyons forced evacuations from people’s homes and burned down barns in the grasslands along the Plains. Even in winter, I do not feel safe from wildfire risk, when the temperatures feel more like mid-July and the winds blow.
The after effect of the Chinooks is a lack of power at our house for 12 hours, and a loss of Internet for 24 hours. Several power outages take out our microwave internet capabilities, and so for the first time in a long time, I spend my night reading. Last year, we caved and purchased an emergency generator, a godsend to keep our refrigerator and key appliances running.
Just another reminder that in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, you have to be prepared for anything and be self-sufficient whatever Mother Nature throws your way.