Hotchkiss hammered by wind, rain

Hotchkiss residents survey the damage to trailer home Friday morning near downtown Hotchkiss.

Hotchkiss residents poured out of their homes in a daze Friday after a violent windstorm and deluge of rain the afternoon before sent trees crashing through homes, blew roofs off barns and spread debris everywhere.

Incredibly, emergency workers did not receive any reports of injuries or deaths during the storm in which winds were clocked at up to 90 mph while a quarter–inch of rain fell in 15 minutes around 4:45 p.m.

“Today, it’s like I’m still in shock. I just can’t believe it,” resident Linda Driscoll said while peering into her sewing room, its ceiling caved in thanks to a visit by the neighbor’s cottonwood tree.

According to Mark Sprinkle, the town’s building inspector, four families were displaced by the storm, with most staying with families and friends. Trees fell on four homes, and a garage was destroyed. A barn reportedly was blown onto the railroad tracks near the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery, shutting down railroad operations temporarily. High winds peeled bricks and part of a roof from a historic brick barn owned by members of the Hotchkiss founding family, shearing off the barn’s corner.

The wind pattern is described as straight-line wind, not a tornado. Because of its two-mile swath, the storm also is being called a macroburst instead of a microbust, which affects a smaller area, said Tom Renwick, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

“There was no way we would have known that was coming,” Renwick said. “You just get these storms that build up, and sometimes they’ll collapse. It’s kind of a crapshoot.”

It’s a good thing the Delta County Fair occurred last week, as three moveable bleachers at the fairgrounds were tossed over a fence and transformed into a mangled mess. Roofs were ripped off two dugouts at the nearby ball fields.

Each bleacher, which holds 90 people, cost $7,200. County workers were leaving much of the structural damage where it lay Friday, waiting for insurance adjusters to arrive.

“At this point there’s no way to put a money figure on it,” Sprinkle said.

Many longtime residents said they never had seen a storm of that magnitude in the area, and that’s likely the case, said Jim Pringle, a warning-coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Usually high-wind storms occur in uninhabited areas, he said, but Hotchkiss was directly in the path of the storm that blew in from the south and southwest.

Temperatures dropped 20 degrees, and some residents said the intense, cold rain caused them to feel like they couldn’t breathe. Motorists traveling on the road said visibility was especially low.

Neighbors helped each other remove trees Friday, the whirring of chain saws reverberating around town. The American Red Cross arrived in Hotchkiss on Thursday night, and members of Rogers Mesa Mennonite community offered their assistance.

Gawkers off Colorado Highway 92 across from City Market stopped all day to ogle at a 90-foot cottonwood tree that smothered a trailer home in the Quarter Circle Trailer Park.

“He was watching TV, he just thought a branch had landed on it,” the trailer park owner said of the renter. The owner did not want to give his name.

“It never even busted a window,” the owner said. “It didn’t even phase him.”


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