January 29, 2023

Dec. 2 (Reuters) – Residents in Colorado Springs and throughout El Paso County should prepare for strong winds and potential fire hazards from Thursday night through sunset Friday night, according to weather and emergency management agencies.

According to the National Weather Service in Pueblo, there is a strong wind warning from Thursday 8 p.m. to Friday 5 p.m.

“After 8 p.m. we will start to see wind gusts in excess of 60mph and they will get stronger as the night progresses,” said NWS meteorologist Klint Skelly.

“After midnight we should start seeing gusts between 70 and 80mph. I’ve heard some people say we’re going to see up to 90 mph. That’s within the realm of possibility, but if it does happen, it’s going to be a one-off gust or two.”

Travel could be “very dangerous” in some areas, particularly west of the Interstate 25 corridor and along the western border of El Paso County, Skelly said. “High-profile vehicles,” including panel trucks, semi-trucks, RVs and some pickups and SUVs, are at risk of being “blown off the road” on the I-25 corridor south of Pueblo, officials said.

Residents should prepare for the possibility of downed trees and power lines, according to a press release from the Pikes Peak Regional Office of Emergency Management.

“Widespread power outages may occur,” the press release said.

Drivers are advised to avoid travel and stay indoors if possible. If staying home is not possible, drivers are cautioned to hold the steering wheel firmly with both hands, watch out for abrupt changes in wind direction and speed, and watch out for flying debris.

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Power outages could include traffic lights, according to emergency management staff.

“Motorists should treat all blacked-out intersections as a four-way stop,” officials said in the release.

The regional emergency agency is advising residents to secure their patio furniture and Christmas decorations and stay clear of wooded areas or near trees and branches.

According to the Weather Bureau, strong winds and low relative humidity add up to a high risk of fire. A red flag warning will be in effect from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Skelly said.

Some El Paso County school districts announced closures in anticipation of potentially unsafe conditions. Calhan RJ-1, Hanover 28 and Miami-Yoder JT-60 all announced closures for Friday. On Thursday evening, Academy District 20, Harrison District 2, Manitou Springs SD 14 and Widefield District 3 announced two-hour delays for Friday.

Nearly a year ago, a devastating storm wreaked havoc across Colorado Springs, toppling semi-trailers, uprooting trees and causing widespread power outages. Wind gusts reached 100 miles per hour during that storm and more than 34,000 residents lost power.

Gazette reporter Brooke Nevins contributed to this report.

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