Did you know that not all cities have warning sirens to warn citizens of an approaching
tornado? Even some cities as large as 90,000 residents have no warning sirens at all. Did
you know not all communities warn citizens of a Doppler radar indicated tornado headed
directly for them? Many officials wait until they see a tornado on the ground
before warning citizens. Everyone needs to buy a NOAA Weather Radio to protect
themselves and their family and listen to local stations during severe weather. You can
also sign up for our weather service and get notified when
severe weather approaches your area.
On this day Tornado Tim had read the SPC predictions in the morning
saying no serious weather was expected today in northern Colorado.
I had a feeling that
this area might pull off a surprise severe storm today. I begin chasing with my laptop,
using NOAA's reports, the weather channels reports, meso discussions, convection reports.
I received radar images on my laptop that are only 5 to 7 minutes old. These timely radar
images are a great help. I also carry a hand held anemometer with me to measure wind
speeds. The highest possible reading on it is 65 m.p.h. I began following building
clouds at Brush when I noticed a convergence of winds above me. I have seen this cloud
pattern many times now. I recognized it's potential. There was significant rotation and
several possible funnel clouds forming. Below the cloud rotation was ground disturbance
which was simply straight down-drafts.
Strong down-drafts were right along hi-way 34. I followed these
down-drafts to 5 miles west of Akron. At that point at least 2 clear funnels had formed. I
have painted an illustration of what I saw. It did not touch down and my notes from the
chase have it 4 miles north of hi-way 34 and 5 miles west of Akron, just before the hill.
I did not see the normal spotters on the hill as I drove up it that day so I am not sure
where they were located.
I had to paint this picture of the funnel I saw 5 miles west of Akron as I did not get a
photo. It is hard to drive, keep yourself out of danger, video tape, and figure a path for
quick escape all at the same time. I could not pull over to the side of the road fast
enough to get a picture because of the traffic behind me. I remain a good driver even
during a chase. Safty first! I missed many good shots on this trip because I was chasing
alone. This is the best picture I can paint for you of what I saw. It is at this time I
realized this storm was serious.
The down drafts now were showing significant ground rotation. One
rotation lasted one minute and formed into weak a f0 gustnado. I measured the winds with
my hand held wind gauge and measured 65+ mile per hour winds. The rotating clouds were
very active and several down-drafts were now rotating beneath the clouds. As I drove up
the hill I did not see any spotters in their normal spots, but later I was informed they
were out there watching the storm approach. When I got to Akron I saw several officers
watching the storm.
OTIS, COLORADO STRAIGHT DOWN DRAFTS
I continued to follow the storm past Akron, thankful nothing more than slight wind damage
took place so far. Debris and flying objects, especially glass can cause serious
injury so powerful downdrafts should not to be taken to lightly. In my opinion all too
many people take severe storms too lightly. Many people have been killed by tornadoes, and
severe thunderstorms can and often do produce tornadoes with little or no advanced
Between Otis and Akron I saw 2 or 3 small f0 gustnados on the
ground caused by strong wind gusts. These f0 gustnadoes can have winds up to a top speed
of 70 mph. I had to punch through near zero visibility from the dirt and debris before
getting a good look at them. Within these straight down drafts is where these f0
gustnadoes were hidden.
Even a strong gustnado or downdraft can have winds over 100 mph.
A baby in a stroller or kids playing in the park would be at great risk. I talked to the
sheriffs department that about a possible severe storm headed for Otis, Colorado. When I
arrived at Otis there weren't any sirens or alarms. I saw people sitting on their front
porch in down town Otis. I couldn't believe it. I would have thought the local people
would have been more concerned about the storm.
It is this lack of respect for severe weather that causes people
to get killed. No one ever believes a tornado will hit their town, that is until one does.
I have taught my children to recognize the danger of advancing severe storms, and to take
shelter even if no alarms have been sounded if the storm has strong winds with it.
I parked on the East side of Otis and sat to watch the storm
descend upon Otis. I did not see a storm spotter here, where I would have expected to.
When I chase I usually see storm spotters in specific locations, and police on the road
ahead and behind me. Usually it is quite the caravan with many spectators. It wasn't like
that this time. I didn't see any other chasers until I was coming back after it was all