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Tornadoes in Colorado? This is ‘Hail Alley’

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This tornado was situated just north of the airport of Lamar, Colorado. The tornado was hardly moving and on the ground for almost half an hour. It caused considerable damage to buildings and cars. Credit: Getty Images

DENVER (KDVR) — After a wild winter in Colorado where Denver saw its snowiest season in 37 years, what can we expect from the spring and summer storm seasons?

Tornado sirens were tested earlier this week in Denver. But how often does Denver really have to worry about a tornado threat?

Tornadoes in Colorado

Most tornadoes in Colorado occur over the Eastern Plains and are on the lower end of the Enhanced Fujita Scale of tornado intensity. 

Colorado is not located in the normal “Tornado Alley”, but Weld County actually has the number one rank for the most weak tornadoes (EF0, EF-1) anywhere in the United States. 

There are an average of around 31 weak tornadoes (EF0, EF1) each year across Colorado. Most of those happen in the Eastern Plains. 

For the most part, tornadoes in Colorado occur in the afternoons with the development of the afternoon thunderstorms.

Do tornadoes ever hit Denver?

Has it happened? Yes. But strong tornadoes in the Denver metro are extremely rare.

On June 15, 1988, Meteorologist Chris Tomer said an F2 and F3 tornado hit the Denver metro.

An EF-3 tornado hit Windsor in May of 2008.

In June of 2015, an E-F1 tornado touched down in East Denver and traveled to Aurora.

Tornadoes in Denver are rare because of the city’s proximity to the Foothills and mountains. 

“It takes some distance for the thunderstorms to mature and the wind sheer to maximize kind of like a spinning ice skater,” shared Meteorologist Chris Tomer.

Colorado’s tornado season is traditionally May through August, but we have had tornadoes from February to as late as October.

Hail in Colorado

Severe hail is actually a bigger and growing problem across Denver and the Front Range. We are technically in “Hail Alley”, a term used by Meteorologist Chris Tomer.

Not only does hail fall several times a year in Colorado, it’s also incredibly costly for our state.

The costliest storm to date was on May 8, 2017. It resulted in about $2.3 billion in hail-related insurance claims.

That storm surpassed the historic storms of July 20, 2009 and July 11, 1990.

A 1.1 billion dollar hail storm hit the state in July of 2009. Thornton was buried under 8 inches of hail during that event.

Here’s a look at some of the hail that has fallen in Colorado over the past few years:

  • Hail in Colorado Springs. Courtesy: KRDO
  • Hail at Centennial Airport. June 7, 2012

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