Severe noon wind storm drops three power lines
Wind gusts recorded at 45 mph, residents were without electricity for three hours
June 20, 2003
The storm that pulsed through Steamboat Springs at midday Friday didn’t produce much rain but it managed to knock down power lines in three locations and startled employees at a local business.
“The power line was on fire and it was so loud we could hear it crackling from inside the building,” Charlotte Camilletti said. “It was so hot that it turned sand on the ground into glass. It was scary to know there was that much voltage lying on the ground out there.”
Camilletti is the manager of Carpets Plus on Pine Grove Road. She said a power line fell onto two vehicles owned by a property management company, which has a maintenance facility behind her store. The unoccupied vehicles appeared undamaged, Camilletti said.
“The line fell across two vehicles and the part on the ground was on fire,” Camilletti said. “You could see the flames burning toward the vehicles.”
Jim Chappell of Yampa Valley Electric Association said the power line carried 7,200 volts. He confirmed that voltage is sufficient to turn sand into glass. He said it is likely that what Camilletti heard and saw was the current arcing to ground before breakers in the system locked out the current. That process usually takes just seconds, he added.
A volunteer weather spotter for the National Weather Service in Steamboat Springs recorded a wind gust of 45 miles per hour at 12:30 p.m. The power line fell shortly before 12:45 p.m. and power to Carpets Plus was restored within 20 minutes, Camilletti said.
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Chappell said nearby grocery stores were not affected.
Although crews were working on restoring the line within minutes, there were still isolated households without power at 4 p.m. on Pine Grove. Chappell estimated in late afternoon that it might be until 6 p.m. before all power was restored. He didn’t have estimates on how many customers were affected by the three incidents.
The power line fell across Pine Grove road and the road for a short time, snarling lunchtime traffic. Director of Public Safety Services J.D. Hays said police officers responded, but their task was limited to making certain YVEA’s crews had room to do their jobs. There were no occupants in the vehicles touched by the power line and there were no injuries, Hays said.
Power was also out in portions of Old Town, where a tree fell against a power line at 921 Crawford St., Chappell said. Witnesses reported the broken line caused sparks and smoke in the tree.
Residents of nearby subdivisions were without power for almost three and a half hours, Chappell said. Crews responded immediately to the scene to “isolate” the broken line.
The wind storm also struck about 10 miles to the west on County Road 44, where power poles were toppled by the storm. Chappell said a cottonwood tree fell into a power line, causing it to burn through. When the line broke, the power poles came down.
The scene was not far from Cullen’s corner on County Road 129 and about one mile from the Elk River Bridge.
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