Winds whip up valley

Gusts of up to 80 mph forecast in some parts of national forest

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— Al Balser was in the back room of his house on Pine Street in Steamboat Springs Tuesday when he heard a "God-awful loud crash." Balser said it sounded like an avalanche was falling on his house.

It turned out the noise Balser heard was his neighbor's cottonwood tree being blown over by one of the wind gusts that howled through the Yampa Valley Tuesday.

The tree clipped Balser's front porch, causing structural damage but not destroying it, and landed on the side of the house.

"It was quite a little experience," Balser said.

The tree was old and was bound to come down sooner or later, Balser said.

The National Weather Service said the valley experienced sustained winds of 20 to 40 mph throughout much of the day, with gusts up to 50 mph.

In parts of the Routt National Forest, gusts to 80 mph were forecast.

Doug Baugh, weather specialist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the high winds preceded a cold front that moved into the area Tuesday night. The overnight forecast called for anywhere from 2 to 5 inches of snow.

An 80 mph wind advisory remained in effect for the Elk Head Mountains north of Hayden and the Park Mountain Range in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness through late Tuesday night, Baugh said.

Coincidentally, the wind warning came only two days before the fourth anniversary of the Oct. 25, 1997, Routt Divide Blowdown. That windstorm produced 120 mph gusts that toppled more than 4 million trees in the Routt National Forest north of Steamboat Springs.

U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Diann Pipher said there are a number of crews in the forest that have been advised about the high wind warning. They also were instructed to give a heads up to everyone staying in the forest this week. Because of the big-game rifle season, a lot of people are camping out.

Baugh said the wind should blow out of here sometime today, along with the cold weather, leaving what is forecast to be a warm weekend.

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