A tree lies in the driveway of a home in the Heritage Park subdivision Thursday morning. High winds associated with thunderstorm Wednesday night knocked down dozens of trees in the area.

Photo by John F. Russell

A tree lies in the driveway of a home in the Heritage Park subdivision Thursday morning. High winds associated with thunderstorm Wednesday night knocked down dozens of trees in the area.

Steamboat surveys damage after Wednesday storm

Storm downs trees, causes power outages, burns down barn

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A tree lies in the driveway of a home in the Steamboat II subdivision Thursday morning. High winds associated with thunderstorm Wednesday night knocked down dozens of trees in the area.

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Hail from Wednesday night’s thunderstorm sits in the yard of a home in Steamboat II on Thursday morning.

— City of Steamboat Springs arborist George Hine has seen his share of downed trees in the past 16 years but nothing quite like the toppled cottonwoods that lined the No. 8 fairway at Steamboat Golf Club on Thursday.

“I was certainly impressed,” he said. “Hopefully it doesn’t happen again.”

A severe thunderstorm rolled through Steamboat Springs on Wednesday, toppling dozens of trees west of town and producing lightning that was blamed for two power outages and a barn fire on Routt County Road 46.

At the height of the storm, Jane Garrison, who was driving to Steamboat from Denver, received a phone call from her husband.

“You’re not going to believe the golf course,” he told her.

Wayne Garrison, general manager of the Steamboat Golf Club, was surveying and cleaning up the damage to his golf course Thursday. He estimates that 20 cottonwood trees, some as tall as 90 feet, were blown over by the storm.

“We got rain, we got hail and we got strong winds,” he said. “It was very scary. It came on pretty fast, and it didn’t last long.”

Garrison enlisted the help of Becker Tree Service to remove the fallen trees that lined the fairways of the course Thursday. Employees from other area golf courses also helped the Garrisons remove the trees. The course was closed during the storm and will remain closed until the trees have been removed. Andy Keyek, superintendent of the course, hopes they can reopen by Saturday.

“We had two people in lightning shelters (Wednesday) night,” he said. “But we’re very lucky nobody got hurt.”

Kitchen manager Eric Liss finished the course’s seventh hole Wednesday night before taking cover in a lightning shelter.

“It was like being in the middle of a tornado,” he said. “The building was shaking and creaking, and we were standing in the strongest corner as we heard the snapping and popping of trees around us.”

Hine said the most extensive damage in the city occurred at the golf course.

“The parks weren’t as bad off as the golf course,” he said. “The soil at the course is very rocky and didn’t have a lot of structure to it. The roots never really dug too deep in the tree base.”

Matt Aleksa, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction forecast office, said areas 1 mile north of Steamboat Springs received 0.79 inches of rain between 8 and 8:30 p.m. while areas in town received half an inch during that time period. The highest recorded wind gusts were estimated to be 30 to 40 mph in town. Aleksa said the gusts could have intensified just outside of Steamboat to about 50 mph, a speed he said is capable of blowing over trees.

“The storm developed over near Craig and intensified as it neared Steamboat,” he said.

Aleksa said there were no funnel clouds or tornadoes produced by the storm.

Yampa Valley Electric Asso­c­iation operations manager Bill Caynor said there were two power outages caused by the storm, affecting 68 customers.

Steamboat Fire Rescue was dispatched early Thursday morning to a burning barn on C.R. 46 that fire officials suspect was struck by lightning. After determining that the fire presented no threat to people or livestock, firefighters allowed the fire to burn out on its own. The fire prompted the fire department to release a lightning safety guide.

“There are a lot of things people can do to stay safe,” Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue spokeswoman Deb Funston said. “It’s the time of year that people should be aware of the dangers.”

Today’s forecast calls for sunny skies and a high temperature of 87 degrees. Similar weather will persist through the weekend, with a chance of thunderstorms returning to the area Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

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