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Weather Skirts, Scares Boulder, Broomfield

May 23, 2008
Weather skirts, scares Boulder, Broomfield Swirling clouds, hail and heavy winds blast the area By Vanessa Miller (Contact) Friday, May 23, 2008 Photo by David Jennings SURVEYING THE DAMAGE: John Brookman walks by a building damaged by strong winds Thursday afternoon. The winds, which emergency responders are describing as a "weather event" because they are unsure if it was a tornado or a microburst, hit Brookman's farm near Weld County roads 6 and 11 around 12:30 p.m. Help for victims Here are some ways to help the twister victims or find information about friends and family members who might have been affected: People looking for information about the welfare of residents in northeastern Colorado can check the Mile High Chapter of the American Red Cross' Web site at www.redcross.org. At the site, click on the "register as safe and well" icon, and see people who have registered themselves as "safe and well." Red Cross shelters have been set up in the Windsor Community Center, 250 11th St., in Windsor, and the Budweiser Events Center, 5290 Arena Circle, in Loveland. To make a donation to the victims through the Red Cross, visit www.northerncolorado.redcross.org or call 970-226-5758. Gifts also can be mailed to American Red Cross Centennial Chapter, 120 Saturn Drive, Fort Collins, CO 80525. The Salvation Army's Emergency Disaster Services has sent two "mobile canteens" to help tornado victims. The canteens -- located at the Windsor Community Center -- are offering beverages, snacks and meals to survivors and responders. To make a donation to the victims through The Salvation Army, send money earmarked "disaster relief" to P.O. Box 17607, Denver, CO 80217, call 800-SAL-ARMY or visit www.imsalvationarmy.org. Sources: The Mile High Chapter of the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army Devastating tornadoes, baseball-size hail and dangerous thunderstorms threatened much of northern Colorado on Thursday, and although Boulder and Broomfield counties escaped most of the destruction, both communities experienced some weather scares. While Boulder County residents kept their eyes on swirling clouds overhead and the National Weather Service continued to extend a tornado watch for the area, a storm blasted a swath of land on Broomfield's eastern edge. According to Broomfield authorities, a possible twister destroyed five buildings and injured at least one man about 12:30 p.m. "We're really not sure if it was a tornado or a microburst," said Wendy Forbes, spokeswoman for the Broomfield-based North Metro Fire Rescue District. "So we're calling it a weather event with obvious strong winds." The storm system struck an area where Brighton, Broomfield and unincorporated Weld County converge. Forbes said destructive winds smashed into John Brookman's property at 5024 Weld County Road 6. Gusts there overturned a five-wheel trailer and injured a man who was sitting inside, Forbes said. Brookman said the injured man -- his stepson, Jerry Taft -- was taken to Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette with non-life-threatening injuries. Winds destroyed five buildings and a fence on Brookman's farm, Forbes said. Gusts also damaged a home across the street at 5023 Weld County Road 6. Leroy Evans was disassembling some outbuildings on the farm and witnessed the possible tornado -- hearing it more than seeing it. "It sounded like an old freight train," Evans said. "I couldn't see 3 feet in front of me. I got out of my truck and lay down beside it." For much of the day, a tornado watch -- meaning a tornado could form -- was in effect for about 20 Front Range counties including Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, Douglas and Larimer. Although no tornadoes touched down in Boulder County, funnel and swirling clouds were reported in the eastern cities and towns including Longmont, Erie and Superior. Just after noon, a Boulder County dispatcher reported receiving several reports of a "low, rotating cloud mass over Gunbarrel." Boulder County Sheriff's Office Cmdr. Phil West said the storm had "potential" to drop tornadoes in parts of the county. "But we haven't had much activity," he said mid-afternoon. For a short time just after noon, Boulder County was under a tornado warning -- meaning one had been spotted -- before the warning was downgraded to a tornado watch. The tornado watch expired at 7 p.m. Thursday. Superior Elementary School Principal Mary Hausermann sent an e-mail to parents mid-afternoon, saying students were being kept inside because of "changing weather" and that the school was "keeping on top of the weather reports." Boulder meteorologist Matt Kelsch said south Boulder received hail that measured a half-inch in diameter. He said the city rarely gets funnel clouds and twisters because, in part, humidity fuels them. "And we are drier here," he said. "If you go further east, there is more moisture." Tornadoes rarely sweep through Boulder County -- and, when they do, they're small and stay mostly around the eastern towns. The last tornado to hit Boulder was in 1997, when a weak twister was spotted in the eastern part of the city, along Baseline Road, according to the National Weather Service. A list of tornadoes or funnel clouds reported in Boulder County by the weather service since 1953 includes: Sept. 17, 1953 -- A weak, 15-foot-wide tornado hit an unspecified part of Boulder County. May 12, 1955 -- A weak, 45-foot-wide tornado hit an unspecified part of Boulder County. June 23, 1975 -- A funnel cloud was spotted over south Boulder. June 4, 1976 -- A tornado touched down eight miles southeast of Longmont. May 17, 1978 -- A weak tornado was reported north of Longmont. May 21, 1979 -- A funnel cloud was spotted 10 miles northeast of Boulder. April 30, 1980 -- A weak tornado was reported in Boulder County. Oct. 10, 1980 -- A strong tornado was reported in Boulder County along Arapahoe Avenue. July 9, 1982 -- Two small tornadoes were spotted east of Rocky Flats. June 5, 1988 -- A strong tornado was reported between Boulder and Broomfield. June 1, 1990 -- A weak tornado was reported between Lafayette and Longmont. June 1, 1991 -- A funnel cloud was reported in Longmont. June 1, 1991 -- A funnel cloud was reported in Boulder. June 16, 1996 -- A weak tornado was reported west of Boulder. June 6, 1997 -- A weak tornado was reported east of Boulder, along Baseline Road. Source: The National Weather Service