A severe thunderstorm moved through Elbert County on the evening of June 7, spawning heavy rain, hail, high winds and a tornado that damaged at least 136 homes.
More than 50 responders, including 35 field volunteers representing crews from Elbert, Kiowa, Elizabeth, Rattlesnake, Simla, Agate, Calhan and Limon Fire Districts, along with Elbert County Sheriff’s Office were deployed to conduct damage assessment operations and ensure citizen welfare.
“Basically we just go door-to-door to make sure everyone’s OK and there are no injuries,” said Simla Fire Chief, John Hillmann. “We also look for any types of hazards that may be present such as downed power lines, propane leaks, and we also check on livestock and animals.”
Hillmann explained that in order to effectively cover the large and sparsely populated area, disaster assessment teams were divided into five distinct target areas, increasing efficiency and response time.
Crews canvassed more than 480 square miles and 388 homes, and found approximately 5 percent of those homes had severe damage.
Of the homes damaged, 32 sustained moderate to severe damage.
One home was a total structural loss.
“Fortunately, there have been no fatalities associated with the storm at this time, and we’ve had only one minor injury reported,” said Kara Gerczynski, Elizabeth Fire Protection Agency Fire Marshall and spokesperson for the Elbert County Office of Emergency Management.
The office of emergency management said most of the damage appears to be confined to areas 16 miles east of Kiowa, along CR 105, and 7 miles east of Simla.
The Ben Lomond Gun Club was also damaged, but by excessive hail.
According to officials, the storm’s path was 24 miles long and 20 miles wide, and the tornado initially touched down at approximately 7:15 p.m. near CR-101 north of CR-90, and then moved south into northern El Paso County.
The National Weather Service in Boulder rated damage at EF-2, meaning the storm’s winds are estimated to have been between 111 and 135 mph at its strongest point near CR-82 and just west of CR-97.
Over the next few days, Elbert County Emergency Manager Cory Stark said the county, along with its state and local partners, will work together to assess the long-term damages to the area and begin plans for clean-up and repair.
Emergency responders, as well as area residents, credit citizen preparedness and early warning systems for saving lives.
Emergency management officials are asking the public to stay away from the affected areas and not hamper emergency and official personnel.