Wild winds wallop Westside

       Most of the time, the Westside - being closer to the foothills - is spared the heavy winds that buffet the Colorado Springs “outlands.” But Nov. 3 was a big exception to that rule.
       During the blow that started early that morning and featured 80-mph gusts until the mid-afternoon, the Westside was especially hammered, with countless fallen trees and outages that ranged from momentary to all day long.
       No serious injuries were reported.
       Midland Elementary was powerless starting at 9:30 a.m. and continuing till well past the end of the school day at 3 p.m. “We decided it was safer” to keep the children in school, said Amy Keeney, a special education assistant who helped manage activities with Principal Barbara Bishop out of town. “So we did what we could.”
       It was a day of the wind howling through the old building and people walking around with flashlights and eating cold sandwiches for lunch. The back window of one teacher's car got blown out. “It was a strange day,” Keeney said. “Luckily, when it was time to go home, the wind had died down.”
       Despite a power loss from 8:30 a.m. to noon, Buena Vista stayed open. “Being an old, wonderful building, it had light coming in everywhere,” explained Principal Brenda Smith. “The only complication was that two of the bathrooms were completely dark. So we stuck big camping flashlights in them.”
       Although wind problems occurred citywide to an estimated 50,000 people, the bulk of the power-related issues were on the Westside, according to Tom Black, general manager of energy delivery for Colorado Springs Utilities. “A good part of the Westside is fed from overhead lines, and it has a lot of trees,” he noted. “With the wind concentrated in the foothills, the trees were falling on power lines or taking service lines down.”
       One of the city losses was a lighted street name sign at Garden of the Gods Road and Centennial Boulevard. It had been installed last summer and will be replaced under warranty, according to Tim Burke of City Public Communications. At Bijou Street and I-25, a traf-fic signal crashed to the ground.
       Out of 22 city trees that were uprooted or snapped off in the city, about half were on the Westside, reported City For-ester Bec-ky Lamp-hear.
       Most of these were spruce trees, she said, noting such losses at Bancroft and Bott Parks and “just in-side the fence” at Fairview Cemetery.
       The city maintains such trees in parks and in parkways. However, Lamphear said that citizens must take care of fallen trees that were planted on their own property. For a list of licensed tree-service companies, call City Forestry at 385-6543 or go to www.springsgov.com and link to City Parks and then to Forestry.
       Black said he hoped one “lesson” that might result from the wind event is the importance of not locating trees too near to power lines on streets or service lines to houses. For trees that are near such lines, the city has a three-year trimming plan, but if people are concerned about such situations now, they should call City Utilities and someone will come out and take a look, Black said.

Westside Pioneer article