The National Hurricane Service (NOAA) defines a high wind as the following:
A high wind warning is defined as 1-minute average surface winds of 35 kt (40 mph or 64 km/hr) or greater lasting for 1 hour or longer, or winds gusting to 50 kt (58 mph or 93 km/hr) or greater regardless of duration that are either expected or observed over land.
We don’t live in hurricane country, but along the front range here in Colorado, we get some really wicked high speed winds. The highest non-tornado wind speed recorded in Colorado was 201 mph. Remember, I said non-tornado wind speed. And Kansas thinks they have it rough! This wind speed was recorded on Long’s peak in the Winter of 1981. Recording data only started in the nineteen eighties, so previous high winds of this caliber are most likely to have occurred. For a real time wind link, go here:
Why is it so common for those of us in Colorado, especially on the Front Range, to experience such high winds? The Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University explains it this way:
“Episodic strong winds are a part of life for all areas in the immediate lee (just east of) the high Rocky Mountain chain. Most of these strong winds are relatively brief but severe associated with rapidly descending air cascading over the crest of the Rockies and racing out to the plains. These ‘downslope windstorms’ are most common from late autumn into spring and accompany upper level disturbances in the strong winter-time jet stream.
Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo are all prone to these windstorm events.”
Your Fort Collins automotive repair shop, as well as your car insurance adjuster, will process many auto repair claims from high wind damage. Here at Fort Collins Foreign Car Service, we want you to be prepared on how to proceed should you find yourself driving in a high wind situation.
Crosswinds make it harder to control your vehicle, and the larger your car or truck , the more difficult controlling the vehicle will be. If you see a storm approaching, don’t try and outrun it. If you see a funnel cloud, or other extreme weather, don’t try and outrun it. Keep your wits about you. Extreme driving under a state of panic and extreme weather don’t mix well.
Keep Your Hands On The Wheel
Driving under weather duress is one time to firmly hold your steering wheel. High winds will be pushing your car all over the road, and you will have to counteract this be steering yourself as straight as possible every time a gust pushes your car out of its lane, or off the road.
Watch out for other cars, especially trucks and buses
That RV behind your Honda is going to have a lot more of a struggle to stay in the road than you are. Remember, the larger the vehicle, the more weight high wind has to push around. Boxy style cars are prone to completely toppling over in high wind, so be aware of other vehicles around you. If at all possible, give yourself and every other driver on the road plenty of space. High winds and for drivers of trucks, buses, recreational vehicles, campers, and drivers who are towing trailers are a very bad mix.
Reduce Your Speed
Reduce your speed, particularly when moving from a protected area to an unprotected area, or when approaching large vehicles. Approach cross streets and intersections cautiously, other drivers will be as wind challenged as you are. This will allow you to spot a toppled car before inadvertently trying to drive through it.
Watch out for flying debris
Pieces of everything and anything the wind can pick up will be flying all over the place. High winds damage buildings, tear limbs off of trees as well as topple them completely, and can ravage signs and send any site where construction is in place into a mess. Anything from a piece of a billboard to a branch could smack into your windshield, or go bouncing off the hood of your car. Stay calm, stay slow, and be prepared.
Don’t stop on a bridge
Gale force winds can – and have – pushed cars right off of bridges.
Stay In Your Car
Stay in your car. If you need to pull over, remain in your vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers. If you can pull over, drive safely onto the shoulder of the road away from any trees that could fall on the vehicle, or attract lightning.
Be prepared for high wind driving conditions, and stay safe!