Strong gusts knock out power, close roads in Pitkin County |

Strong gusts knock out power, close roads in Pitkin County

Staff Report

High winds in Snowmass Canyon and the Roaring Fork Valley caused road closures and downed power lines Tuesday morning around Pitkin County, authorities said.

Wind gusts early in the morning caused more than a dozen trees to crash onto Highway 82, Lower River Road and Capitol Creek Road during the morning commute.

Both directions of Highway 82 closed just after 8:30 a.m. when mainly cottonwood trees blew down, said Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office Operations Director Alex Burchetta, who was on scene. The delay forced Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses to remain idle on the highway because the alternate route for buses, Lower River Road, also was closed because of toppled trees, he said.

Other westbound traffic was routed over Watson Divide, he said.

Winds were “circling like a cyclone in the canyon” earlier in the morning, he said.

“It was impressive,” Burchetta said.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported a gust of 79 mph at the top of The Crown at 8:49 a.m., and another in Snowmass ski area near Elk Camp that registered 53 mph about the same time.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction recorded a gust of 48 mph at the Aspen airport about 9 a.m., said Scott Stearns, a meteorologist intern.

Highway 82’s westbound lanes opened about 9:30 a.m., Burchetta said, though authorities closed the road again about 11:30 a.m. so Holy Cross Energy crews could restring power lines across the road. That closure lasted about 20 minutes, he said.

Lower River Road also was closed about 9 a.m. after a pair of 60-to-80-foot pine trees fell across the road, also taking power lines with them. The road opened about 10 a.m., after county crews removed the trees, Burchetta said

Capitol Creek Road was closed from about 9:30-10:30 a.m. when a tree fell about four miles up the road, he said. That tree also took out power lines, Burchetta said.

Holy Cross crews had to restring the power lines on Lower River and Capitol Creek roads, he said.

Finally, a tree fell against a power pole on West Lupine Drive in Mountain Valley, knocking out power to that area, Burchetta said. Holy Cross crews later repaired that outage, he said. There were minor outages through the morning.

Tuesday afternoon the state public health office issued an air quality health advisory for ozone.

According to the advisory: “An intense storm system is producing a stratospheric intrusion which is increasing ozone concentrations for the higher elevations of central Colorado. Ozone concentrations will likely fluctuate throughout the overnight hours but could persist at relatively high levels through early Wednesday morning.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health said in the advisory that children, older adults and anyone with lung disease, such as asthma, should reduced prolonged activities outside.

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