Wind speed hits 87 miles per hour at Farmington Airport
A “dry microburst” hit San Juan County at 7:25 p.m. Wednesday, sending gusts of wind nearly 90 miles per hour that knocked down utility poles and tree branches, according to the National Weather Service.
Strong winds hit the Durango area, cutting power to 10,000 residents.
“We were seeing strong winds in Farmington, with storms blowing in from the Four Corners of Utah and Arizona,” said Michael Anand, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Farmington’s Four Corners Regional Airport experienced winds of up to 57 mph for about 15 minutes, Anand said.
“A dry microburst is a condition in which there is rainfall from a storm and the lowlands are dry. The rain evaporates and creates a cold air blast that hits the surface and spreads, causing strong gusts of wind when it hits the ground. I will,” said Anad.
The microburst knocked down power lines and tree branches, and then caused a power outage.
“Two utility poles in the Navajo Dam area were damaged last night, causing a power outage,” said Hank Adair, director of the Farmington Power Business System.
Adair said at least one utility pole was damaged in the Fruitland area and trees fell across the county.
Adair was happy to report that there weren’t that many outages considering the damage to the trees, so the power company “has pretty much beefed up the system.” The actual utility pole that collapsed was in a remote location.
“It kept the crew busy all night,” Adair said, adding that the crew had been working on the Fruitland blackout late Thursday morning.
San Juan County wasn’t the only area affected by microbursts. Lightning strikes and high winds also hit Durango and Animas Valley, cutting power to 10,000 La Plata Electric Association customers Wednesday evening.
LPEA’s vice president of operations, Jerry Sutherlin, said the outage occurred around 8 p.m. when a tree branch snapped and hit a power line that serves several substations. He said the tree branch broke near Miller Middle School in the Junction Creek area of western Durango.
“It was really hard. It was like a microburst,” Sutherlin said. “Lightning mixed with high winds, a bad combination for power.”
By 9:13 p.m., power was fully restored to all customers, he said.
David Byers, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service at Grand Junction, said the lightning and whiplash winds were likely the result of a downburst. Downbursts can originate from surrounding storms and travel up to 16 to 30 miles from their point of origin, he said.
“If there is a downburst above the canyon, it can come down the canyon,” he says. “And if there are many cells, there may be downbursts at multiple locations and then they converge.”
He added, “It’s like the dry air is pushing in, pushing the thunderstorm roots higher. The higher you go, the more wind you get out there.”
Shane Benjamin of the Durango Herald contributed to this article.