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Microburst wreaks havoc

No one was hurt, but trees were uprooted and cars were damaged

A brief but fierce windstorm hit Steamboat Springs on Thursday, uprooting trees and knocking out power in Old Town.

The storm, a microburst, hit about 6 p.m. and lasted just a few minutes. No injuries were reported, but numerous limbs were downed, several cars were damaged, power lines were snapped, and several residents lost power.

Jeff Colton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Grand Junction, said microbursts are common this time of year. He said a microburst occurs when rain from a thundercloud evaporates before hitting the ground, cooling the air rapidly and creating a down force.



“When that momentum hits the surface, it spreads rapidly in all directions, and you can get winds up to 100 mph,” Colton said.

Colton said the NWS monitoring station south of Steamboat showed a maximum wind gust of 39 mph Thursday afternoon. But he said the damage reports indicate winds topped 60 mph in the downtown area.



Near Seventh and Pine streets, the storm toppled a large cottonwood tree, interrupting a youth soccer game on the field next to the Steamboat Springs School Administration Building.

“The trees were bent pretty far over, and at the very end of it, one tree just came all the way over,” said Tami Havener, a parent at the soccer game. “I grabbed as many kids as I could and just tried to shield them. It lasted maybe two minutes.”

The uprooted tree landed on the soccer field. Parents cleared the debris from the field and resumed the game.

The storm was sudden. “We had like 20 to 30 seconds to get the kids off the field,” said Scott Glynn, another parent at the game. “It was like the Wizard of Oz.”

A large tree fell in the parking lot next to Backdoor Sports on Yampa Street. The tree crushed two cars, a white Honda and a red Chevrolet Cavalier. Also, a fallen limb smashed the hood of a blue Volvo station wagon parked on Yampa Street.

Damien Edwards of Damascus, Md., and his family were having dinner on the deck at The Yacht Club when the storm hit. Edwards said patrons rushed inside and watched. Minutes later, Edwards went to check on his rental car in the Yampa Street lot where other vehicles were damaged. “We were lucky,” Edwards said. “There wasn’t a scratch on it.”

On Grand Avenue, tree limbs severed power lines, knocking out power and sparking a brief fire. Sparks flew from a transformer on Broad Street. Also on Broad Street, the wind lifted a glass table on a porch and smashed it.

Limbs and leaves were strewn throughout the downtown area. Within minutes of the storm’s end, fire department and utility crews were working to clear the debris.

Steamboat Springs native Diane Parnell and her husband, Jerry Parnell, were sitting down to dinner at their home on Park Avenue when they heard a loud crack. Diane Parnell said she thought the flagpole on her front porch had broken. Instead, the storm snapped a massive pine tree in her front yard.

“I told my husband before he moved out here with me that the wind never blows in Steamboat,” Diane Parnell said. “Now every time we get some wind, he reminds me of it. I guess I’ll hear about this one, too.”


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