‘Damaging’ winds up to 100 mph forecast along Front Range and plains Wednesday

Classic Western Windmill Weld County
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A classic High Plains windmill on a ranch in Weld County, Colorado. Oct. 25, 2019.

Updated on December 15, 2021 @ 2:00 p.m.

Front Range residents should prepare for “damaging” wind gusts around 80 mph Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Some areas have already recorded gusts over 100 mph. 

The NWS forecasts the initial blast will spread across the foothills and plains between 7 and 10 a.m. The peak wind event will last from late morning through this afternoon. 

People in the Denver metro should prepare for winds up to 85 mph, and the city will be under a high wind alert from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Xcel Energy reported 698 outages affecting 60,678 customers statewide as of 2 p.m., though not all of those outages are wind-related.

More than 400 flights have been delayed at Denver International Airport due to wind, according to FlightAware, an online tracking service. The airport is spacing out flights and utilizing just two of its six runways due to the wind pattern, a DIA spokeswoman said. More delays are expected through 6 p.m. this evening.

The Regional Transportation District has also experienced some train delays due to gusts. 

At such high speeds, winds can cause significant property damage and make travel hazardous. Drivers may encounter falling tree limbs and experience low visibility due to blowing dust. I-70 westbound is closed between Copper Mountain and East Vail due to high winds and snowy conditions. But drivers headed east are still allowed to use the highway, if they are outfitted with chains, snow tires, or four wheel drive.

Mark Wankowski with the National Weather Service in Pueblo is urging residents to delay travel and secure loose objects they may have outside their homes. 

“If you cannot, just make sure you're weather aware and cognizant of whiteout and brownout conditions with the potential for blowing dust across the southeast plains,” Wankowski said. 

The NWS says residents can do a number of other things to stay safe, including the following: 

  • No burning or other outdoor activities that may produce a spark
  • Avoid parking under or near trees
  • Move unsecured decorations and patio furniture indoors
  • Avoid ladders and window washing

Nearly 30 state-run COVID-19 testing, vaccine and monoclonal antibody clinics on the Front Range have closed due to the weather.  Even more have a delayed opening. Health officials have reached out to people with appointments informing them of rescheduling options. Private providers and some walk-in clinics remain open, but availability may be limited.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Paolo Zialcita, Dan Boyce and Kevin Beaty contributed reporting.