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Get ready for Colorado tornado season

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DENVER -- Wednesday's Midwest tornadoes are a reminder that the severe weather season is also fast approaching in Colorado.

Storms bearing tornadoes typically begin firing up in April and last into July. The Holly tornado in eastern Colorado hit at the end of March, 2007.

The Windsor tornado which caused roughly $200 million damage took place on May 22, 2008.

Capt. Todd Vess of Windsor-Severance Fire Rescue remembered a calm morning giving way to a intense hailstorm. "Something kind of clicked with everyone at the same time," Vess recalled Wednesday. "This isn't right, we need to get in the basement."

When firefighters emerged from their basement they realized the intensity of the storm.

"It was just dead silence outside because there were no birds, no traffic, everyone had stopped," Vess said. "It was very eerie out. The tornado had passed right past the station... We were in complete disbelief that it could have been a tornado that would hit in May."

C.S.U. weather expert Russ Schumacher said the timing of the tornado (late morning) and its path (north-northwest rather than west to east) caught a lot of people off-guard. He said the lesson of the storm is that Coloradans should expect the unexpected when it comes to severe weather.

"It's really important for people to pay attention to the weather situation, even earlier in the day or a few days in advance if it looks like there's going to be a big storm," said Schumacher, an Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Science. He said advances in weather forecasting have outpaced the public's ability to receive warnings in a timely fashion.

"You know we feel like there must be some kind of disconnect there that there's things we can do better to get that information to people and keep them safe," he said.

He urged people to stay informed, using a variety of new and old communications methods, and to draw up a communications plan with family members in case of an emergency. A weather radio might also not be a bad investment, he said. While some Colorado towns have added tornado sirens, Windsor has opted for an advanced reverse emergency call system that can send text messages to cell phones almost immediately.

"You can reach thousands and thousands of people real fast," Vess said.

He said residents of tornado-prone areas in the state should always be prepared.

"Clearly it could happen at any time," he said.

Related: Midwest tornado damage PHOTOS

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