(COLORADO SPRINGS) — It has been one year since a massive windstorm ripped through the Pikes Peak Region, toppling trees and semi trucks, knocking out power, and leaving a plethora of debris in yards, streets, and businesses.
Many locals will remember Dec. 15, 2021 as the day decades-old trees buckled under hurricane-force winds, and countless semi trucks overturned on I-25, blocking traffic and stretching emergency crews thin. Colorado Springs Utilities (Springs Utilities) also recalls that day as a hard-learned lesson in preparedness and response.
“The scalability of a storm that size, you know, we were not prepared for,” said Interim CEO of Springs Utilities, Travas Deal. “We’re used to handling events daily, that’s our job, but to scale up to that size, you know, we had some opportunities and lessons learned.”
Springs Utilities shared their progress since that destructive storm on their website, and reviewed the damage that resulted from the 2021 storm:
- 248 wires down (6.2 miles)
- 101 wood distribution poles
- 5 wood transmission poles
- 33 overhead transformers
- 182 cross arms
Springs Utilities said 600 employees worked 66,000 hours for a week straight, with no injuries reported to personnel as they navigated the dangers of downed power lines and fallen trees to restore power to affected customers.
A LOOK BACK: photos from Dec. 15, 2021
According to Springs Utilities, the lessons learned after that storm resulted in improvements to accuracy and resiliency, which were all once again tested recently, when another powerful windstorm hit Colorado Springs on Dec. 1, 2022.
“Thankfully, the December 2022 winds were not as severe as those we experienced last year,” said Springs Utilities on their website overview. “Despite better conditions than December 2021, occasional wind gusts were still estimated at between 60 and 80 miles per hour. About 120 customers were without power overnight on Dec. 1  and all were restored within 4 hours.”
DECEMBER 2021 STORM: Most notable improvements by Springs Utilities
- Refined accuracy of the online Outage Map
- Undergrounding power lines: 77% of Colorado Springs’s electric system is underground, compared to the industry average of 50%
- The cost and community impact of undergrounding more of the system would be extensive; however, Springs Utilities said the Utilities Board is continually addressing the cost and benefits of those efforts
- New fiber network infrastructure now under construction
“What we’ve done since then is bring the entire organization together and help support [the electric system], to be able to ramp up for these bigger events that take us outside our normal electric outages that we’ve done historically, and bring in a full organization’s support of the 2,000 employees of Colorado Springs Utilities,” said Deal.