Wind, lightning from Tuesday storm knock out power across Routt County |

Wind, lightning from Tuesday storm knock out power across Routt County

Dark clouds hang over the green slopes of Steamboat Ski Resort Tuesday afternoon.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A powerful thunderstorm moved through Northwest Colorado on Tuesday evening, knocking out power to neighborhoods across Routt County but dropping little moisture. 

The storm brought frequent lightning and wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph but dropped less than one-tenth of an inch of rain in Steamboat Springs with slightly higher totals in the mountains surrounding town, according to Matt Aleksa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

“The valleys were just too dry in the low levels to really see much of that,” Aleksa said. “Mostly that rain wasn’t reaching the surface of the valleys.”

The storm kept Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue and Yampa Valley Electric Association crews busy responding to downed power lines from Rabbit Ears Pass to western Routt County. Nearly 2,000 homes and businesses were impacted by 13 outages, which affected users in Hayden, South Routt and Steamboat, according to YVEA member outreach supervisor Jim Jennings.

“Our crews had their hands full,” Jennings said. “They’re not only out there in the dark, but out there in this weather.”

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Power lines lay on the ground near the Silver Spur neighborhood Tuesday afternoon in Steamboat Springs. A fast-moving storm knocked over this power pole and several other lines along U.S. Highway 40 from Hayden to Rabbit Ears Pass.

At about 4:40 p.m., a tree fell on power lines near the Mesa Schoolhouse at the base of Rabbit Ears Pass, interrupting power to about 500 homes and businesses in the area, including South Routt. 

Power lines also fell across Routt County Road 42, knocking out power to the Silver Spur subdivision, and across U.S. Highway 40 between Steamboat II and Milner. The power lines along U.S. 40 fell on a tree and a barn, igniting some vegetation, according to Steamboat Fire Chief Mel Stewart.

At about 6:40 p.m., a home was struck by lightning on Abbey Road in West End Village. The house sustained exterior and interior damage, including to facia, drywall and mechanical systems, Stewart said.

“There was a small fire in the attic space that we were able to extinguish,” Stewart said. “There was a fair amount of damage to the house from the lighting strike.”

About 30 lightning strikes reached the ground during a two-hour period as the storm moved from east to west across the Yampa Valley, according to the Weather Service. 

The unusual track of the storm was the result of a clockwise flow around a high pressure center to the northeast of Steamboat, Aleksa said.

“We’re going to see similar trends today as well as on Thursday,” Aleksa said. “But the winds might not be as crazy as they were yesterday.”

To reach Nicole Miller, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @millerna.

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