Here’s what caused those crazy Denver winds on Saturday

Well, that was something.

A powerful line of storms blasted through downtown Denver on Saturday afternoon, leading to thousands of power outages across the metro area and wide damage reports.

Winds at Denver International Airport gusted as high as 78 mph during the peak of the storm, and gusts topped 100 mph at the top of the Winter Park ski area in association with the wild line of storms.

— Steve Staeger (@SteveStaeger) June 6, 2020

A powerful area of low pressure spinning through Montana and the western United States served as the primary driver for Saturday’s wind storm. Attached to the low was a strong cold front, and that ultimately served as the main focal point for Saturday’s winds.

Warm air (temperatures topped out near 90 degrees on Saturday in Denver, despite the clouds and the storm) ahead of the system collided with an unseasonably chilly air mass that’ll lead to snow for a decent chunk of the Pacific Northwest on Sunday and Monday. That sharp divide between warm and cold air helped to strengthen the low, and in turn, it strengthened the winds and allowed potent winds at the upper levels of the atmosphere to mix down closer to the surface.

Meanwhile, a strong area of high pressure well east of Colorado (perhaps owing in small part to sinking air on the backside of Tropical Storm Cristobal in the Gulf of Mexico) created a huge difference in pressure levels. Air flows from high to low pressure, and the stronger either the low or the high are, typically, the stronger the wind will be as well. That helped create the already gusty winds that were in place for much of Colorado on Saturday, prior to the afternoon’s damaging wind event.

Strong winds that were already in place Saturday morning — winds gusted well above 50 mph — only had to be nudged along by the line of storms to create the damaging winds featured along the Front Range. Those storms zipped along at over 100 mph at times through Colorado. The line itself served mainly as a destructive exclamation point for what had already been a windy Saturday.

The end result? When the line moved through the Denver area around 3:30-4:30 p.m. on Saturday, wind speeds rocketed to around 80 mph in parts of the metro area.


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