By Thomas Peipert, The Associated Press
High winds whipped across the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday, knocking out power, closing roads and highways and forcing the cancellation or delay of hundreds of flights.
The National Weather Service warned of wind gusts between 60 and 80 mph along Colorado’s Front Range throughout the day and gusts of up to 100 mph in the foothills. The weather service tweeted just before noon that the airfield at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs recorded a gust of 100 mph.
Blaire Brush, a spokeswoman for the military academy, said windows on multiple cars and buildings were shattered during the windstorm. She did not know if the windows were smashed by objects flung by the wind or solely from the force of a gust.
“It’s definitely windy. You can kind of feel it in the buildings, that’s for sure,” she said.
On nearby Interstate 25, more than a dozen semitrailers blew over in winds that topped 90 mph, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.
Blowing dust caused zero visibility at times on the eastern plains, and a 35-mile section of Highway 50 was closed east of Pueblo. The wind was subsiding Wednesday evening.
Meanwhile, Xcel Energy reported hundreds of outages in the Denver-Boulder area, where more than 50,000 people were without power Wednesday afternoon. Crews in Broomfield, northwest of Denver, were forced to cut power after the wind lifted a large trampoline into an electricity line, according to the North Metro Fire Rescue District. No one was injured in that incident.
In Loveland, about 50 miles north of Denver, police said some roadways were blocked by downed trees and branches. And in the Denver suburb of Arvada, the wind toppled a large Christmas tree that stood in the town square.
“A landmark was lost today,” the Arvada Police Department tweeted Wednesday afternoon, attaching photos showing people assessing the damage.
More than 580 flights were delayed at Denver International Airport, and nearly 160 were canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware. The airport closed several runways based on the wind pattern, and the Federal Aviation Administration said that some arriving flights were delayed more than two hours.
Before pummeling Colorado, the storm barreled through Utah, causing power outages for thousands of customers, more than 100 crashes and snarling flights at the airport. Many classes were canceled or delayed.
The Salt Lake City area received about a foot of much-needed snow, with more in the mountains.
The storm was moving into the Midwest, which braced for powerful winds, heavy rain and a chance of tornadoes Wednesday.
Associated Press writer Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.