WINDSOR, Colo. – Tornadoes touched down in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming on Thursday, damaging buildings, flipping vehicles and killing at least one person.
The National Weather Service said a large tornado touched down just after noon near Platteville, about 50 miles north of Denver. It then moved north through or near several towns, tearing the roofs off buildings, downing power lines and crumpling farm equipment.
A second tornado touched down later in near Johnstown, about 10 miles northwest of Platteville, the weather service reported. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Windsor, a farm town of about 16,000, appeared the hardest hit. Video footage showed a dark gray funnel perhaps a quarter-mile wide near the town with heavy hail and rain. “It passed right over us like a big, white monster,” said 87-year-old Windsor resident Thomas Coupe.
Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said a man was killed at a campground west of Greeley. At least seven people were taken to the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, said hospital spokesman Gary Kimsey. About 130 children at a day care center in the town 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.”
Police officers were going door to door through Windsor looking for survivors, said Greeley police Sgt. Joe Tymkowych. “We’re hoping to finish that by nightfall,” Tymkowych said.
Tymkowych said he was about a half-mile from the tornado as it swept through the western edge of Evans and Greeley, an area that is mostly corn fields.
“It was a tornado that just sat on the ground,” Tymkowych said. “The amount of swirling debris and dust was just amazing, about a block, a block and a half wide. You could see debris just rotating, light poles, trees, you could see items being cast out from the sides, the edges of the tornado.”
Gov. Bill Ritter declared a state of emergency for Weld County, mobilizing the Colorado National Guard to assist with disaster response. Ritter and officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency planned to tour the area by helicopter Thursday night.
All of northeastern Colorado was under a tornado watch through Thursday night, the National Weather Service said.
Meanwhile, National Weather Service meteorologist John Griffith said a tornado touched down in Laramie, Wyoming, on Thursday afternoon.
Griffith, who works in the agency’s Cheyenne, Wyo., office, said he had received reports that the storm had damaged two schools and a Wal-Mart.
State troopers responded to reports of vehicles turned over on Interstate 80 in Laramie, a dispatcher with the Wyoming Highway Patrol said.