By Beth Dodd:
(related front page story)
Park County residents took shelter inside their homes and businesses as two, possibly three, tornadoes tore through the area on Sunday, June 8. According to Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener the twisters damaged at least four homes as well as an RV park. No one was injured or killed. At least six other tornados touched down in other parts of the state.
The first tornado was spotted moving northeast a couple of miles south of Fairplay near Black Mountain around 11 a.m. and was on the ground for about five minutes. A reverse 911 call went out to residents within 30 miles of Fairplay. The Park County Sheriff’s Office, Fairplay Police, South Park Ambulance, Northwest Fire and Hartsel Fire were dispatched to search the area for damage or injured people. The twister had damaged the roof of one home and no one was hurt. Some reports say there was later a second funnel in the Fairplay area, but it did no damage.
Another tornado touched down near the intersection of Park County Road 92 and Road 370 between Lake George and Eleven Mile State Park. A second reverse 911 call was sent to residents within a 30-mile radius of the reported location. The tornado damaged a nearby home, leaving pieces of wood and sheet metal scattered across nearby pastures like crumpled tissues. A tree was knocked over at the nearby Indigo Mountain Nature Center, but the facility was unharmed otherwise.
The tornado was witnessed by Robert Dodd and his son, who were driving toward Lake George on County Road 92 when the funnel touched down about 100 yards from them.
“We saw a lot of debris flying around and on the ground. A full sheet of plywood flew past us like a sheet of paper,” Dodd said. “There was wind, rocks, and hail flying around and hitting the car.” The Dodds escaped unharmed and continued into Lake George where they witnessed the tornado continuing to advance to the northeast. They did not stick around to watch the storm reach town.
The twister touched down again as it crossed through the western end of Lake George around 12:40 p.m. A home just south of U.S. 24 and County Road 90 was damaged. The house, a shed, a trailer, and the fencing were all affected.
The Lake George Cabins & RV Park on the southeast corner the intersection of County Rd 90 and U.S. Highway 24 across from the Lake George Fire Department was the worst hit. Five trailers were flipped onto their sides or turned upside down and smashed. At least four large trees at the site were toppled.
An old log cabin with a metal roof on the corner just north of the RV park had a section of its roof peeled up like the lid of a tin can. One report said that a witness saw water being sucked up out of Lake George as the twister passed over. Dozens of trees on the hillside on the north side of Highway 24 across from the RV park were snapped and broken, clearly marking the path the storm took. The U.S. Forest Service estimated that 50 acres of trees were damaged in Sunday’s storms.
The Lake George tornado was estimated to be an F1, with winds in the range of 73 to 112 miles per hour. An F1 tornado is described as able to produce “moderate damage” including the surface peeled off roofs, mobile homes pushed off foundations or overturned, and moving autos blown off roads.
U.S. Highway 24 was closed from Lake George to Hartsel for a short time after the event while debris was cleared from the highway. Forest Road 271 was also closed due to the weather, and Forest Roads 200 and 205 were made impassable in some places. The tornado also knocked out power lines, and local residents and businesses from Lake George to Eleven Mile Village were without power until IREA could restore service.
Damage to two more homes at Tom’s Ranch off Trail Creek Road was confirmed by Sheriff Wegener.
Another funnel was reported near the Park/Teller County line south of Florissant. The tornadoes were visible from Divide, Florissant and of course Lake George. However, only the Lake George tornado and the first Fairplay tornado have been officially recognized.
Although tornadoes are considered rare in the mountains west of Colorado Springs, a funnel cloud was seen in the area south of Florissant and Lake George on Memorial Day weekend just two weeks ago. It did not touch down or do any damage.
At least six other tornadoes danced across Colorado on June 8. A tornado was reported 2 miles south of Grover, in Weld County. Two more tornadoes were later seen in Weld County near Roggen and Prospect Valley. Weld County escaped the storms with no damage, while a tornado near the Blackstone Golf Course in Aurora during a kids’ golf tournament flipped a construction trailer and a golf cart. A man riding in the cart suffered a broken wrist.
Another twister was seen briefly in open country 15 miles southeast of Bennett. Palmer Lake in Douglas County also got in on the action, with a tornado reported 5 miles northeast of town causing no damage.