Saturday, December 31, 2011

EXTREME WEATHER: Hurricane-Like Winds Wreck Havoc in Nebraska, High Winds Sweep Boulder County and Front Range, Wild Jet Stream Snarl Wyoming Highways - Leading to 1-70 Fatal Accident!

A jet stream brought winds fierce enough to turn driving into a white-knuckle experience today, forcing trucks off Interstate 25 at the Wyoming border and gusting to 102 mph in Colorado.

The high wind warning expired at 5 p.m., but the winds didn't get the message. At about 7:30 p.m., three empty cargo trailers were overturned by wind gusts estimated at 102 mph at Table Mesa Parkway and 45th Drive northeast of Golden, said Fairmount Fire Lt. Chad Bassett. No was injured and nothing spilled, he said. The National Weather Service​ had warned that some high gusts could continue through the evening, especially at higher elevations. Stronger winds could return Friday night and continue through Saturday afternoon, according to the service. At about 4:45 p.m., high winds toppled a semi-truck's trailer and closed an eastbound lane of Interstate 70 near Georgetown for about an hour. There were no injuries, however, according to the Colorado State Patrol. Gusts also topped out at 102 mph southeast of Pinecliffe in Jefferson County at 2:20 a.m., said Eric Thaler, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Boulder.

A peak gust of 79.5 mph was recorded at 9:20 a.m. at the National Wind Technology Center near Boulder. Winds of 60 and 70 mph were common throughout the region, he added. "There is a big jet stream right overhead and it has lots of wind in it. It mixes down to the surface." Blowing snow combined on roads that were wet, icy and snow packed early in the day to make travel difficult on sections of highway throughout the mountains. By late afternoon the ice had turned to slush in most places, though snow continued to blow in Northern Colorado. "The biggest issue is high winds. In much of northeastern Colorado, and on highways like U.S. 285 and Highway 24 and even some areas on (Interstate) 70, gusts of wind are blowing snow and affecting visibility," said Colorado Department of Transportation​ spokeswoman Stacey Stegman. A driver died in a single vehicle crash on I-70 near Loveland Pass late Thursday morning, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

The fatal crash happened before noon in the eastbound lanes of the highway, said state patrol spokeswoman Cpl. Heather Cobler. The vehicle struck an embankment and landed on the roof, killing the driver. Roads were icy on the highway at the time of the crash and visibility was limited by snow and blowing snow, Cobler said. Nearby Loveland Pass closed to traffic because of snow and blowing snow, and strong winds forced trucks off I-25 in Wyoming, just north of the Colorado state line. Winds up to 70 mph pounded southern Wyoming from Cheyenne north to Wheatland and along the Interstate 80 corridor from Sidney, Neb., to Rawlins, Wyo., according to the NWS. A high wind warning is in effect until 5 p.m. and the winds should settle down overnight, Thaler said. "It is not going to completely stop, but it shouldn't be as bad." The wind should rev up again late Friday night in the mountains and foothills and blow hard through Saturday afternoon. The eastern plains could also experience heavy wind beginning Saturday morning and tapering off in the afternoon. - Denver Post.

High winds that pounded western Nebraska on Thursday, causing several accidents, are expected to take a break today before roaring back to life Saturday. High winds toppled a semi truck near Sidney as gusts buffeted traffic. In Nebraska, Highway 71 was also closed near the Harrisburg Spur due to poor visibility and three accidents, including a tractor-trailer roll over. Sustained gusts at Western Nebraska Regional Airport registered at more than 50 mph. As winds gusted to 80-plus mph Thursday, Wyoming highway officials closed Intestate 25 and U.S. 87 to light, high profile vehicles between the Colorado state line and Wheatland, Wyo., due to extreme risk of toppling. After a respite Friday, stronger winds are forecast for Saturday, according to the National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Weiland. "It's really going to pick back up again on Saturday, Weiland said. "It's a combination of several things. There are strong winds in the upper and mid-level atmosphere - the jet stream - over our area. Part of that today and Saturday is the approach and passage of a cold front."

Weiland said the wind can create travel problems and make it difficult to control high-profile vehicles such as vans and semi-trucks. Power lines can be also be knocked out, visibility can be reduced and the wind can whip up grass fires. "The (Saturday) front has colder air associated with it," Weiland said. "The frontal passage is Saturday morning, and temperatures will continue to fall during the day to a low of 10 to 15 degrees with decreased winds." Nebraska State Patrol Lt. Lance Rogers said three wind-related accidents occurred Thursday near the Harrisburg junction on Highway 71 about 15 miles south of Scottsbluff. Rogers said a high gust of wind caused poor visibility because of blowing dirt from a nearby wheat field. A semi overturned on the highway and two other cars were involved in crashes in the same vicinity. "It looks like they are all minor injury accidents," he said. "It was a mess for a little bit. For safety reasons, we closed the roadway for 30 to 45 minutes. We had only one northbound lane open for a period of time while we were waiting for tow trucks to move the semi and cars parked on the side of the road." Rogers said he advised that drivers of high-profile vehicles slow down in high winds and drivers turn on lights and safety flashers. "During the daytime, some people don't think about turning on their lights, but if you turn on your lights, people are more likely to see you." - OMAHA.

Gusts over 100 mph swept the Front Range on Thursday, and high winds are expected to continue through New Year's Eve. The highest gust recorded in the state was 102 mph at Pinecliffe, about 15 miles southwest of Boulder, according to the National Weather Service. In Boulder, a gust of 81 mph was recorded at 6:30 p.m. at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, according to meteorologist Matt Kelsch. Nederland recorded gusts of 70 mph, Kelsch said, while Longmont recorded 66 mph gusts Thursday evening. Unlike in November, when high winds fueled several small brush fires and downed trees and power lines, Thursday's winds caused little significant damage across the county. Kelsch said there were reports of some downed trees on U.S. 36 between Estes Park and Pinewood Springs. The winds are expected to pick back up Friday night, with sustained winds between 32 and 39 mph and gusts as high as 60 mph on Saturday, according to the weather service. Kelsch said the winds Saturday will be colder than Thursday. A high wind watch will go into effect for the Front Range on Saturday morning.
- Colorado Daily.

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