DENVER – Winds in Colorado gusting over 70 mph on Friday helped spread wildfires, tipped over large trucks and broke weather records. One gust of 101 mph was reported at a mountain pass.
About 300 homes were evacuated because of the wildfires near Longmont and in foothills near Boulder. They were quickly contained by firefighters working amid blowing dust and smoke.
The 24-acre fire near Longmont destroyed two barns and an outbuilding, Boulder County Sheriff’s Office Division Chief Robert Sullenberger said.
The cause of that fire was unclear, but officials believed the 5-acre fire near Boulder was caused by a tree that fell into a utility pole that fell on the ground, igniting a grass fire.
The powerful winds knocked over trucks on highways, including one near Longmont on Interstate 25 at least two on Interstate 70 in the mountains. A 130-mile stretch of Interstate 70 between Golden and Dotsero was closed to commercial vehicles as a result.
Some broken car windshields were also reported because of the wind, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Tracy Trulove said.
The 101 mph wind gust was reported at Berthoud Pass about an hour drive west of Denver, the National Weather Service said.
The heavy winds came after a week of unseasonably warm and dry weather that raised the fire danger in the Colorado’s eastern half.
One of several fires in Denver on Wednesday temporarily shut down train service to the airport.
The winds were warm and helped set new records for the warmest February day every recorded in Colorado Springs, Denver and Pueblo. The temperature hit 77 degrees in Colorado Springs on Friday afternoon, 80 at Denver International Airport and 82 in Pueblo.