Major storm pounds Denver area with hail, street flooding; Tornado warning in Adams, Aurora, Denver, USA
A storm pounded northern parts of the Denver metro area Wednesday with hail, caused street flooding and closed Denver International Airport because of tornado warnings. At least four tornadoes were spotted in the region, but no significant damage was reported.
A new tornado warning was issued at 3:20 p.m. for parts of Arapahoe, Adams and Denver counties after a tornado was spotted in northwestern Aurora, east of Denver. That warning extends until 3:48 p.m.
The storm also snarled traffic on Interstate 70, Pena Boulevard and elsewhere as drivers contended with flooded roads. Passengers at DIA were told to evacuate their gates and take shelter, but they were allowed to begin returning to gates shortly after 3 p.m.
Sirens went off in Denver and Aurora as the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning until 2:53 p.m. for central Denver, western Arapahoe and western Adams counties.
A new warning was issued until 3:15 p.m. for Adams and Arapahoe counties, extending east to Bennett.
A tornado was spotted over Watkins at 2:47 p.m. Three tornadoes were reported to the weather service in Aurora. One was at 2:05 p.m. on the west side; the second was at 2:10 p.m. on the southwest side; and the third was at 2:30 p.m. on the northeast side of Aurora.
At 2:15 p.m., some rotation and a debris ball were indicated 9 miles southwest of Denver International Airport, which was shut down because of the tornado warning. All trains were stopped and all flights were on hold.
At 2:08 p.m., the NWS reported that a rain-wrapped tornado was reported on the ground near Tower and Smith roads. Earlier, there were reports of a funnel cloud in the air near University Hospital.
At 2:20 p.m., the storm was south of the airport, moving east at 15 mph.
Hail up to half-dollar sized was possible.
Earlier, officials said weather in northeastern Colorado, including Denver, could be violent Wednesday afternoon, with a chance of tornadoes, large hail, heavy rains and winds gusting to 60 mph.
A tornado watch has been issued by the National Weather Service through 8 p.m. for 11 counties in Colorado including Denver and its suburban counties.
Cities under the tornado watch include Boulder, Broomfield, Castle Rock, Fort Collins, Fort Morgan, Golden, Greeley and Kiowa.
The 11 counties were Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Jefferson, Larimer, Morgan and Weld.
A hard rain fell in downtown Denver at 1:45 p.m., sending some pedestrians scrambling for cover as others broke out umbrellas.
The Highlands Ranch High School graduation at Red Rocks Amphitheater was delayed to lightning, hail and heavy rain, Douglas County Schools tweeted. The ceremony was delayed until at least 2 p.m.
Tuesday several areas received more than an inch of hail, including Deer Trail and other areas east of Denver.
The stormy weather was fueled, in part, by southeasterly winds, setting up a pattern “known as the Denver cyclone,” said Frank Cooper, a meteorologist with the NWS in Boulder.
Denver sits in a bowl, with mountains to the west and higher terrain to the south — the Palmer Divide — and to the north — the Cheyenne Ridge.
As the winds, with gusts up to 60 mph Wednesday afternoon, mix with bands of stormy weather, the terrain sets up an “eddy” and the Denver Cyclone goes into effect, Cooper said.
The severe weather Wednesday afternoon will likely hit hard in an extended area northeast of Denver along the South Platte River and I-76 corridor to the Nebraska border.
Localized flooding will be possible, the weather service warns.
“We have a good chance of some severe weather,” Cooper said. “We got it for much of the urban corridor and the eastern plains.”