‹‹ Colorado Postcards

Chinook Winds

Listen Now
1min 00sec
Corey H. Jones/CPR News
Winds blow through metro Denver with extreme gusts reported at higher elevations on Monday, February 20, 2023.
Chinook winds

In Colorado and along the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountains, Chinook winds can raise a midwinter thermometer from sub zero to a balmy 50 degrees in a matter of hours, and they can erase snowpack at an equally astonishing rate: an inch an hour will simply evaporate.

Some of the most extreme examples happened in January 1982. Ferocious winds battered buildings, toppled trucks and trailers, flipped airplanes and snapped utility poles. The strongest gust: 140 mph at Wondervu in Coal Creek Canyon. Chinook winds originate in the Pacific Northwest, where the Chinook people live. By the time the winds reach the leeward side of the Rockies, they’re warm and dry. At their best, Chinooks sculpt beautiful cloud formations over the Front Range and offer a warm release from frozen everything. And at their most destructive, they hit fast and furious like a category 4 hurricane.

About Colorado Postcards

Colorado Postcards

Colorado Postcards are snapshots of our colorful state in sound. They give brief insights into our people and places, our flora and fauna, and our past and present, from every corner of Colorado.