The city of Chicago has long been known by the nickname, “The Windy City.” But I would argue that Nederland can claim that moniker more than Chicago any day. We were reminded of Nederland’s torrential winds once again this past week, as the National Weather Service issued several high wind warnings for the area, with winds of routinely blowing 50 miles per hour, and reaching gusts of over 70 miles per hour. The winds seem to roar every winter, as the storms roll from west to east, bringing the downslope winds with them. It’s become so expected in the wintertime, that we have a box of bungee cords that we use to tether things down lest they blow away, something we experienced several times our first winter here.
Though I had lived in the mountains before, I wasn’t expecting Nederland to be such a windy place, even though I had been forewarned. When we told friends of ours we were moving to Nederland back in 2010, the first thing they uttered was, “Oh, it’s really windy there.” What a strange thing to say? How windy could it be? I’d been on the coast of Virginia and North Caroline during a hurricane, surely it couldn’t be that bad… I found out that first winter how strong those winds could be while working for the local ski area, Eldora Mountain Resort, when the winds would routinely shut down the lifts. We had a standing joke there, about not using the “W” word, something one of the retail staff took literally, saying the lifts were closed because of a “Breeze Hold.”
We moved in during the summer of 2010, and things seemed pleasant – no real winds to speak of, until Labor Day. We were trying to complete the building of a shed and were putting the tin roof on, and the winds were so bad, we couldn’t get the tin to lay flat on the shed. Moments later, we spied a mushroom cloud billowing up in the sky — wildfire!! That was the start of the devastating Four Mile Canyon Fire that burned over 160 homes in our county. Three months later, we experienced the winds of winter here in the Rocky Mountains. The night before Thanksgiving, we were awakened by the sounds of gusting winds, the creaking of the house as the gale force buffeted the outside of our house. I got up and looked out the large windows off our great room — the 100 foot Lodgepole pine trees were bowing back and forth, as the winds pummeled them. I actually started thinking the house might come apart, splintered by all this wind. I found it difficult to get back to sleep, the sounds so disturbed me. To comfort myself, I kept thinking, “Well, the house is 20 years old and has survived to this point, it must have been built sturdy enough to withstand these winds.”
Even though, I knew all that wind was going to be a reality of winter in the mountains, I sometimes forgot and would be rudely reminded by the carnage left behind in the morning, or when I got home from work. The most impressive was when our barbecue grill got completely hurled off the deck into the middle of the driveway. I’ve found snow shovels halfway up the road and trash bags blown about the yard. When we have snow, all that wind whips up drifts into our driveway – two feet of cement, almost impossible to drive through, and even more impossible to try and shovel. ended up using the shovel like a miner with a pick axe, chipping away at the snow like it was rock. It’s easy to understand why these western states get blizzards during the winter, when all that wind whips the snow around to the point of whiteout.
Now days, we try to be proactive as we head into winter. We know the famous Nederland winds are coming, and we have to take proper precautions. That means we remove any and all objects off our deck that may be turned into projectiles, either storing them in our shed or in our crawl space. We tether necessary items that we need, like the barbecue or snow shovels to the deck rails, so they don’t blow away. And of course, we have plenty of warm hats, gloves, scarves to protect ourselves from the cold, windy weather as well. But I know longer fear the winds — I know it’s just another part of life in the mountains.