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Wind, snow – Action Line provides shelter from the storms

April and May are the windiest months of the year. But has it gotten more windy in recent years? Not enough data exists to give a conclusive answer. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Dear Action Line: What the heck is up with this wind? I cannot remember a year where it’s been this windy for this long! When will it end? – Blown Away

Action Line will provide two responses, so hold on to your newspaper/iPad.

No. 1 is the official Action Line response. No. 2 is an unofficial paraphrase of what the experts seem to be saying.

Response No. 1: Heck yeah, how about this idiot wind? Day after day of 30 mph blasts, with metal chairs getting blown over and plastic grocery and department store bags smothering neighborhood shrubs. I know it’s windy every spring, but anyone with powers of observation knows it’s REALLY windy this year.

Response No. 2: You all are a bunch of whiners with short-term memories. Of course it’s windy. Look at the calendar. April’s the windiest month, and May’s next. It’s May now, and it was April last month. This happens every spring. EVERY year since the Earth started revolving around the sun, and probably before that. Criminy, next you’re going to whine when it gets hot in July or snows in January.

Action Line is stubbornly sticking with response No. 1. Especially after spending several days in the desert trying to anchor a tent with heavy rocks and water containers. We didn’t even have to go to the desert. The wind was blowing the desert here.

Those of you who insist on being scientific about this might have a different response, and that’s your prerogative. For example, state climatologists led The Durango Herald to a webpage that shows “high wind days” for each May in Cortez from 1992 to 2018. On a “high wind day,” the average wind speed is greater than 6 mph. There are typically four such days each May, seven in April. Action Line hasn’t counted, and can only say it’s been one too many mornings, and afternoons.

Action Line isn’t really satisfied with these statistics anyway because they ignore the last two years, which by Action Line’s unofficial, unscientific records both have been really, really windy. Action Line once lived in Laramie, Wyoming, and thus understands wind, OK?

“We often hear the same thing you do, that people have the perception that it’s getting windier,” said Russ Schumacher, director of the Colorado Climate Center and associate professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, both in Fort Collins. “But I think we all have short memories when it comes to wind, and as we come out of the winter and into the spring and get into some windy days, it’s surprising and we forget that it happens every year.”

One challenge in studying wind, he noted, is that long, consistent records don’t exist. The state has records from limited sites, and nothing for Durango. If this is indeed a windier spring, no one has data to prove it.

What we can all agree on – records back this up – is that it has been drier than normal this spring. And wind, whether it’s above average or not, exacerbates this problem by melting snow and drying out the soil faster. Blowing desert dust settling on snowfields also melts them faster. We need more hard rain.

So, you can believe the experts – Jeff Givens, Durango Weather Guy extraordinaire, is another – who dismiss the “it’s really windy this spring” believers. Or you can trust Action Line, who has the memory of a tambourine man, whatever that’s worth.

The large diameter pipes are staged on the Gelande lot, ready to roll. (Courtesy photo)

Dear Action Line: Things are melting and now budding up in north county. The past few weeks giant 6-foot-diameter tubes have been delivered to the Gelande lot just south of Purg. Any info on what’s going on? – Going Down the Tubes

Dear Tubes: Action Line’s educated guess was that these were for a luge-like tunnel. Ice it up inside and you have a fast and fun way to travel safely from the parking lot to the base.

Action Line apparently isn’t very educated.

Dave Rathbun, general manager of Purgatory Resort, had the real scoop. These “tubes” are part of a water pipeline that Xcel Energy is reconstructing. Xcel, which leases water to Purgatory for snowmaking, worked out a deal with the resort to use the Gelande lot as a staging area.

The pipeline takes water from Cascade Creek and delivers it via Electra Lake down to the Tacoma Generating Station along the Animas River. The old pipeline was leaky.

The generating station, first constructed in 1905, is now a 4.6-megawatt hydroelectric plant north of Rockwood. It’s accessible only via the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, or by sliding down a steep slope like a rolling stone from Forebay Lake above the station. But you shouldn’t try or even know about that method. The energy produced is fed into La Plata Electric Association lines.

The project officially started last week and is scheduled for completion this fall, said Michelle Aguayo, spokeswoman for Xcel. More details can be found in a Herald story from Jan. 4, 2020: https://bit.ly/3hP0n01.

After two years of drought, Purgatory could use an above-average year where less snowmaking is necessary.

“I’ll take average,” Rathbun laughed. “Let’s just get average.”

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Remember, my friend, the answer is blowin’ in the wind. There, that’s seven Dylan references if you need a count.