MT. EVANS, Colo. (CBS4)– Professors from the University of Denver viewed the damage to the observatory atop Mt. Evans for the first time on Wednesday.
The observatory is in bad shape after it was closed for the season last winter. Now a sign that greets visitors reads “Keep Out Because of Wind Damage” at the top of Mt. Evans where damaging winds were not kind to the observatory’s dome.
“We survived 15 winters just fine, thank you until the exceptional winds this winter,” said DU Professor of Astronomy Dr. Robert Stencel.
Stencel also runs the observatory. He and his team don’t know when or exactly how the damage happened but in March strange shadows started showing up on the webcam.
It could have been from a large storm around New Year’s.
“Sustained winds during mid-January for example were 90 mph sustained hourly average. So you can imagine Ed Greene would predict wind gusts twice that,” said Stencel.
The doors were ripped off the observatory dome when the destruction became worse.
“The rest of the dome inflated like a balloon, shifted to the side and clearly got torn apart in the process,” said Stencel.
For now he and his team have to assess the damage.
“These cables used to be attached to the telescope,” said Stencel. “The telescope is basically out of commission at this stage. I think we can get it up and working by summer but without a roof it’s perilous to do so.”
As the summer tourism season gets under way, Stencel wants visitors to stay away, “We think the roof is hanging safely but you don’t want to go climbing in it.”
The minimum cost for the materials to replace the dome is $75,000. With labor, that price tag could even skyrocket.