Thunderstorms that originated in eastern Utah and along the Western Slope formed a squall line that produced damaging winds and power outages across the state Saturday afternoon, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Hanson.
Wind damage was recorded in just about every corner of Colorado, from Durango to Sterling and from Greystone to Springfield. Trees and downed power lines knocked out electricity for thousands in the state, and pea-sized hail was reported in scattered areas, including Peyton, Pueblo and Manitou Springs.
Grand Junction recorded some flooding, but rain generally was not the problem. Trees were blown down by hurricane-force winds in Denver, Durango, Aurora and elsewhere. Shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday, about 45,000 Xcel customers across Colorado remained without power — most in and around Denver.
A hard rain’s gonna …
At end of Broncos march thru downtown, powerful storm blew in, and caught this car near Wash Park. pic.twitter.com/CyOfynB6kc
— Mark Kiszla (@markkiszla) June 6, 2020
Peak gusts reached 78 mph just after 4 p.m. in Denver, but Denver International Airport recorded only three-hundredths of an inch of rain.
“This was really an unusual setup for Colorado,” Hanson said. “We had a severe thunderstorm watch this morning in western Colorado. Thunderstorms normally just form over the mountains or foothills and over the plains. We already had very strong winds in lower part of the atmosphere, and it didn’t take a lot of energy from the thunderstorms to increase the wind.”
A gust of 110 mph was recorded about 3 p.m. in Winter Park. A forward speed above 100 mph is considered to be meteorologically off the charts. A one-hour radar loop showed the storm, which stretched across the state north to south, likely moving near 100 mph for an hour as it moved east. The storm speeds drew attention from meteorologists across the country on Saturday.
Other powerful winds recorded in the state included 86 mph in Buford, 85 mph in Cedar Point, 78 mph at Chatfield Reservoir, 79 mph at Copper Mountain, 78 mph at Barr Lake. Other reports of high wind came from the Moab, Utah, area and along southern Wyoming. Cheyenne reported winds of 70 mph.
Along the Front Range, some of the measurements were 69 mph at the Air Force Academy, 70 mph in Morrison and 63 mph at Buckley Air Force Base.
A sharp upper-level area of low pressure spinning through the West was responsible for the fast-moving storms. While winds at the upper levels of the atmosphere are typically confined to air well above the surface, the strong upward motion of Saturday’s storms allowed them to mix down to the surface. That led to wind speeds that topped 50 and even 60 mph across much of the Front Range on Saturday afternoon.
A sharp contrast between cool, dry air behind the system and warmer and more humid air ahead of it allowed for fast forward speeds of the storms as well.
Chris Bianchi of WeatherNation TV contributed to this report.
This content was originally published here.