Roughly 50,000 people in the Denver metro area lost power Sunday as gale force winds swept off the mountains. The National Weather Service and the National Center for Atmospheric Research recorded gusts of more than 90 miles per hour in some places.
As of 9:20 p.m. Christmas evening, there were still about 13,000 people without power. Xcel Energy spokesman Mark Stutz said more than 50 crews are working through the night to restore power, and the utility has requested mutual aid from neighboring utilities.
Update: As of 8 a.m. Monday, 3,000 households are still without power.
The outages were spread throughout the metro area but more common in areas west of I-25. Lakewood and Boulder were particularly hard hit.
Stutz said there aren’t a lot of downed poles. Instead the outages occurred when debris — mostly in the form of flying tree limbs — hit wires. In many cases, crews need to find the damaged areas by sight, so the darkness will slow things down considerably.
There are also a few hundred homes where the outages are related to the mast — where the power enters the home — pulling away in the wind, Stutz said. That equipment is the responsibility of the homeowner, and anyone who can SAFELY see that that is the case on their property should call an electrician.
Stutz said Xcel crews expect to make much more rapid progress once the sun rises.
Just how windy was it?
The peak gust on Sunday was 90.4 miles per hour, recorded at Table Mesa at 2:50 p.m. That’s how fast the winds are moving in a Category 1 hurricane.
The National Weather Service recorded some even stronger winds than NCAR in places like Jamestown and Gold Hill above Boulder.
The National Weather Service said wind and blowing snow will make for hazardous conditions in the mountains and the northeast plains, so delay travel in those areas if you can.
Winds were a lot more reasonable out at Denver International Airport, where the National Weather Service reported wind speeds between 8 and 10 miles per hour and gusts up to 16 miles per hour.