Severe Weather - High Winds

If you have lived in or spent considerable time in Colorado, you have probably experienced a wind so strong that you'd swear your vehicle jumped lanes.  High winds, particularly in the winter, in Colorado can be powerful enough to cause damage over a wide area, not unlike a severe thunderstorm.  Why?  In short, the jet stream winds over Colorado are much stronger in the winter than in the warm season.  In some cases, this causes west powerful winds to race down the slopes of the Front Range, frequently in excess of 60 mph and sometimes exceeding 100 mph.

High winds can cause flying debris, can collapse structures and in extreme cases, can overturn vehicles.

In cases where there is a 50 percent chance or greater of high winds developing in the following day or two, the National Weather Service will issue a High Wind Watch.  In the event High Wind conditions develop, the National Weather Service will issue a High Wind Warning.

So... what do you do about high winds?  Actually, we can take the same safety precautions most often identified for tornado (and hurricane) safety and use it in response to high wind threats.  For example:
  • If high winds are forecast, bring lightweight items indoors or tie them down
  • Watch out for downed power lines and report any downed power lines to the utility company
  • If you are in a lightweight or low profile vehicle, consider waiting to travel until winds die down
  • In extreme cases, stay in an interior room or basement of your house/business and avoid windows.  Interestingly, according to high wind preparedness experts, garage doors are often the first feature in a home to fail due to high winds.
  • Do not remain in light or poorly constructed structures that may be subject to blow down or collapse - and if you don't think this can happen, check out this article from last year year
  • Stay out of structures with wide, free-span roofs like auditoriums and gyms.
  • Secure or move indoors all items which could become projectiles.
  • Avoid areas/structures immediately subject to tree/branch falls (special note:  pine beetle-kill forest areas are uniquely subject to blow-down due to dried or damaged root systems).
And, as always, keep up with developments from the National Weather Service online or on the radio.