121521 Wind Storm photo by  Bryan Oller00018.jpg

An unusually strong winter windstorm has wreaked havoc along the Front Range.

“We’ve recently suffered a damaging windstorm with peak gusts up to 91 miles per hour in several locations,” said Jim Reid, the director of the Pikes Peak Regional Office of Emergency Management, during a press briefing with Colorado Springs and El Paso County officials on Dec. 15. “That’s had an impact across the region. Several overturned semis, more than 30,000 homes without power, fallen trees, debris throughout the region, some small fires, some roof damage to buildings.”

Reid offered tips for people to stay safe during the outages. “Please be safe by doing the following: keep freezers and refrigerators closed, if power is out food should stay good for about four hours if refrigerated, if food gets below 40 degrees it should be discarded,” he said. “If you use a generator, only use it outdoors and away from windows. Do not use your gas stove or oven to heat your home. Don’t use camping stoves or BBQ grills indoors. Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges. Make plans for refrigerating medicines or using power-dependent medical devices.”

Dennis Will, the Colorado Springs city forester, noted that most of the damage and downed trees were located in or near Downtown. “Most of the damage was south of Fillmore [Street], north of Cimarron [Street] east of Interstate 25 and west of Union [Boulevard],” he said.

Will suggests people report downed trees on public or city property through the GoCOS! app or web portal. “If you have a damaged tree that is hung up on Colorado Springs Utilities power lines, call their utility number, 719-448-4800, let them mess with it, that’s not your responsibility,” he said. “Besides that it’s dangerous, we don’t want anyone to get hurt. If there is a tree that fell in your neighborhood and it’s blocking the street or it’s on a vehicle or it’s blocking an entrance to your house, you need to decide if it is a private tree or a public tree. If it is a public tree, then City Forestry will address that damage and that issue.”

Will urged caution for people attempting to remove fallen trees themselves, and said City Forestry crews would be out Dec. 16. “We’re going to work on the trees as fast as we can,” he said. “We’re mobilizing a fairly large group of sawyers to go work tomorrow morning when it gets daylight and the wind stops blowing. It’s a lot safer.”

A representative from Colorado Springs Utilities noted that over 34,000 customers are without power. Utilities crews were unable to work during the day, as bucket trucks were unable to be used when winds are above 35 mph due to safety concerns.

Colorado Springs Fire Department Chief Randy Royal noted that there were over 650 calls for service today. During a normal day, CSFD averages 230 calls. Royal said CSFD responded to several structure and grass fires, as well as a gas leak at The Citadel mall, and a number of hazardous materials calls with overturned tractor-trailers. He urged residents to call 719-444-7000 for all non-emergency concerns, and to limit 911 calls to emergencies only.

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City crews clean up a downed tree near the intersection of East Cimarron Street and South Weber Street.

Corey Farkas, the operations and maintenance division manager for Colorado Springs noted, that the cleanup efforts will take time. “We would ask that folks be patient,” he said. “Last time we had a storm similar to this it took us the better part of two to three weeks to get all of the big stuff cleaned up. We will have our sweepers out, we will have our crews out to help and keep traffic moving in a good direction in a lot of these roadways that have trees in them, but it takes time. Go ahead and call 719-385-ROAD [7623]. You can leave a voicemail, you can also use [GoCOS App].”

Drivers are reminded to treat all intersections without functioning stoplights as four-way stops and to report any downed stop signs using the GoCOS! app. There is a warming shelter for anyone without power at First United Methodist Church, 420 N. Nevada Ave., but it is not equipped for overnight lodging or sleeping.

Web resources:

GoCOS coloradosprings.gov/page/citizen-request-gocosprings-app

Resource list: coloradosprings.gov/winterwind

El Paso County residents: citizenconnect.elpasoco.com

Phone numbers:

211 - Resource list

719-448-4800 - Colorado Springs Utilities

719-385-ROAD [7623] - Colorado Springs road issues

719-444-7000 - Colorado Springs Fire Department

News Reporter

Heidi Beedle is a former soldier, educator, activist, and animal welfare worker. She received a Bachelor’s in English from UCCS. She has worked as a freelance writer covering LGBTQ issues, nuclear disasters, cattle mutilations, and social movements.