Jet stream-induced winds cause West Glenwood power outages

Fire risk could increase as result of wind, but spring growth keeping risk in check

People try to pick up limbs of a large tree after it fell and blocked both lanes of Highway 6 just west of New Castle earlier this spring.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

A jet stream hovering over Colorado has caused breezy days throughout Garfield County, but winds could calm down by Thursday, a National Weather Service spokesperson said.

“Normally the jet doesn’t sit above us for long,” NWS Meteorologist Tom Renwick said. “But now, the jet has been just sitting above us for the last four or five days.”

Gusts across the county on Sunday were recorded between 35-50 mph, with Silt experiencing the strongest recorded gusts and Carbondale seeing the weakest.

“We’re not really tapping into moisture,” Renwick said. “Because it’s been so dry, it’s allowing those high-speed jet stream winds to mix down, which translates into higher than average wind speeds on the ground.”

Glenwood Springs fire crews battle a small fire that broke out Tuesday in Glenwood Canyon near MM122 on the south side of the Colorado River near the railroad tracks.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Sustained winds without precipitation can cause vegetation to dry out, creating concerns for increased wildfire risk, U.S. Forest Service Central Zone Fuels Specialist Dan Nielsen said.

“Low pressure systems push the winds,” Nielsen said. “Even if it’s not super warm, it’s kind of like a hair dryer: It dries everything out.”

Dry fuels are more receptive to ignition sources, and high winds can make extinguishing a blaze difficult.

Recent wind events, however, haven’t been overly concerning, because of the time of year, Nielsen said.

“Vegetation is starting to green up,” he explained. “These weather events do happen around this time of year, but overall, the fuel conditions are normal for this time of year.”

Nielsen said greener vegetation and close to average snowpack levels have prevented the Forest Service from issuing any recent red flag warnings.

In West Glenwood, wind gusts caused some energy users to experience brief power outages, Glenwood Springs Public Works Director Matt Langhorst said.

“West Glenwood is fed from a different transmission line than north, east and south Glenwood,” he explained. “Xcel Energy, who owns our transmission lines, experienced some bumps on the Mitchell Creek line, which serves West Glenwood, and shut down power as a precaution.”

Following a bump, the company typically inspects the line to ensure it is safe to continue service, then re-energizes the line.

In these instances, Glenwood Springs can reroute electricity to the outage area, but the process is time consuming, Langhorst said.

In the case of outages Sunday and Tuesday, he explained the outages were not long enough for the city to respond. To minimize potential outages during weather events, city staff regularly perform preventive maintenance, such as trimming trees near power lines and checking the structural integrity of power poles, Langhorst said.

“When it comes to transmission lines, they are owned by Xcel, so interruptions in service as a result of transmission line issues is out of our control,” he said. “But they also use maintenance to reduce the impact of weather events on energy users.”

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at

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