Tornado bores through northern Colorado towns
WINDSOR, Colorado (AP) ” A large tornado tore through several northern Colorado towns on Thursday, killing at least one person and flipping over tractor-trailers, toppling freight rail cars and ripping roofs off buildings.
One man was confirmed dead in the storm that first struck about 50 miles north of Denver, Deputy Weld County coroner Gracie Marquez said. The man was a resident at a campground outside Greeley, the county said in a statement.
Emergency personnel were still trying to determine how many people were hurt, and how badly.
At least seven people were taken to the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland with injuries, said hospital spokesman Gary Kimsey. The nature and extent of their injuries were not immediately known.
“We have every type of injury, broken bones, cuts, bruises, from everything from falling trees to broken glass hitting them,” said Jolene Schneider, spokeswoman for the Windsor Fire Department. “Only thing we are trying to figure out now is how many and how severe.”
The National Weather Service said the storm touched down just after noon and tracked north-northwestward through or near the towns of Platteville, Milliken, Greeley and Windsor. Windsor, a farm town of about 16,000, appeared the hardest hit, with at least one residential neighborhood heavily damaged.
Video footage showed a dark gray funnel perhaps a quarter-mile wide near Windsor with heavy hail and rain.
Helicopter footage from KUSA-TV9 showed several rail tanker cars lying on their sides along a rail line in downtown Windsor.
Homes and farm buildings lost roofs, utility poles were toppled and jackknifed truck blocked a state highway. Interstate 25, the main north-south highway, reopened to traffic, while parts of state Highway 85, an alternate route, were closed. Lockdowns of schools in the area were lifted about an hour after the storm passed.
The American Red Cross was setting up a shelter at the Windsor Community Center.
Splintered wood, mangled metal and other debris cluttered roads, yards and agricultural fields. About 130 children at a daycare center in Windsor were reported safe after the storm passed through; playground equipment outside the center was damaged.
“My house is gone,” said Pete Ambrose, a caretaker at a Weld County campground outside Greeley. “I lost my dog. I lost my cats. I lost my camper. I lost everything.”
Ambrose said the storm destroyed a mobile home, downed cottonwood trees and power poles, and heavily damaged a nearby dairy. He said one camper may have been killed, but his account could not be immediately verified.
In Windsor and Greeley, 10 miles to the east, the tornado knocked down trees and shattered windows.
“It passed right over us like a big, white monster,” said Thomas Coupe, 87, of Windsor.
Some 60,000 customers lost power in the area, according to XCel energy.
Rich Bruzewski said he and his wife were working in a shed on their farm near the small town of Gilcrest when the tornado struck their nearby house and the shed collapsed around them.
“We stood in the back of the shed and the shed collapsed and I was just hanging onto my wife for dear life,” a shaken Bruzewski said as he surveyed the debris of his house and a barn.
“It’s all gone,” he said.
The storm ripped an 8-foot-wide hole in the roof of the house and left bricks piled in the living room. A china cabinet near the bricks was untouched.
A tornado warning was dropped for an area about 100 miles northeast of Denver.
KUSA said a funnel cloud was spotted near Longmont, some 30 miles north of Denver, but no damage was immediately reported.
Windsor resident Liz Meyer, 65, said she heard thunder and steadily increasing golf ball-size hail and rushed with her dog into her basement. Her house wasn’t damaged, but a 60-foot tree was uprooted and dumped near her home. “And look. It went into the street instead of into my house,” Meyer said.
The National Weather Service posted tornado watches were posted for several areas of Colorado in the eastern plains through Thursday evening.
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