Blast Furnace on the Plains

As I traveled back to Colorado today, strong southerly winds raked the Great Plains, sweeping hot air into the Heartland and fueling tornadic thunderstorms across the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest.  Plumes of dust streamed across the Interstate and the high winds played havoc with highway signs and traffic cones; the gusty winds rocked high-profile vehicles and encouraged many travelers to stop and reinforce the ties on their cargo, enduring blasts of 90 degree (F) heat in the process.

While the wind was a blessing for livestock, sweeping away the biting insects, the heat forced many of the cattle to gather in the shade of trees and billboards or, better yet, to wade into the shallows of ranch ponds.  Hawks took advantage of the wind to hover above the grasslands while some smaller birds proved to be victims of the higher gusts; attempting to fly south across the highway, their progress was stalled by the wind and, in a few cases, they were struck by oncoming traffic.

By the time I entered Colorado, the winds had shifted from the southwest and their intensity had diminished; as I approached Metro Denver, the early evening temperature had fallen into the low 80s. Fortunately, the altitude and thin air of the Front Range cities favor radiative cooling and the overnight low should sink into the mid fifties (ideal for natural air conditioning).