Front Range counties get nearly 40% of Colorado’s tornadoes

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DENVER (KDVR) — Life away from the Great Plains does not guarantee freedom from tornadoes.

The Kansas and Nebraska border counties aren’t getting the most tornadoes in the Centennial State. Over the past 70 years, the Front Range counties adjacent to the Denver metro area get more than the prairie counties.

The National Weather Service has tracked all Colorado’s tornadoes from 1950-2020. Common wisdom would indicate the closer to mountains, the better the odds of avoiding tornadoes.

Higher elevation counties naturally have fewer tornadoes than the plain- and prairie-adjacent counties. The counties that run east of the Rockies account for 5% of the tornadoes.

Indeed, the overwhelming majority of tornadoes in Colorado happen east of I-25, but that’s where common wisdom ends. A county needs to be within a few miles of the mountains to avoid tornadoes.

Over a third of Colorado’s tornadoes happen in the heavily population Front Range counties. Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, Pueblo, Teller and Weld counties have reported 825 tornadoes collectively in the last 70 years.

Half of those, in fact, come from only two counties. Adams and Weld counties are Colorado’s most tornado-beset counties by a fair margin.

The chart below shows the number of tornadoes in each Colorado county. The red bars indicate Front Range counties.

Four of the ten heaviest Colorado tornado zones are Front Range counties: Adams, Arapahoe, El Paso and Weld counties.

In the Denver metro itself, counties that run farther east have much higher tornado counts than those that directly abut the mountains, with the exception of Denver.

Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties collectively have 20 times as many tornadoes as Jefferson, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Jefferson and Park counties.

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