© Josh Myers
Finger Lightning near the Aurora Reservoir
People in southeast Colorado are cleaning up damage after up to five tornadoes struck early Friday morning.
All of the tornadoes were southeast of Lamar. The National Weather Service says preliminary findings indicate five tornadoes touched down. Two were in Prowers County, two in Kiowa County and one in Bent County.
Early reports indicated the storm moved northeast in the area, with a tornado touching down near Bristol. Residents near Chivington and Brandon reported a tornado in that area with damage to structures and possibly some minor injuries.
Our partners in southern Colorado, KOAA-TV, are reporting several families are out of their homes because of the damage.
At least seven homes and a hog farm were destroyed by the tornadoes. State officials say no deaths have been reported, only minor injuries.
According to Micki Trost with the Colorado Department of Emergency Management, the damage stretches across three counties: Kiowa, Bent and Prowers. Trost says there are six structures damaged in Kiowa County, three structures in Bent County and five in Prowers County. Trost says there may be more outbuildings damaged from the storms too.
Lamar officials in Prowers County said deputies and state troopers spotted a fast and large tornado south of the city that ripped through homes.
According to Micki Trost with the Colorado Department of Emergency Management, the damage stretches across three counties: Kiowa, Bent and Prowers. Trost says there are six structures damaged in Kiowa County , three structures in Bent County and five in Prowers County. Trost says there may be more outbuildings damaged from the storms too.
Of the six structures in Kiowa County, four are destroyed and one has major damage and one has minor damage. In Prowers County, three structures are destroyed and two with major damage. The extent of the damage is unknown at this time in Bent County.
Reports there indicate a substation on Prowers County Road 11 was damaged, and power was knocked out.
As of 4:30 p.m., the City of Lamar and most of Prowers County still didn't have power. Crews were working to replace downed lines and downed equipment. Many businesses are closed because of the power outages.
In Kiowa County, four homes and a former church building were damaged or destroyed, said Chris Sorensen of the county sheriff's office.
Damage in Chivington.
The damage included one home in Chivington in Kiowa County that was totaled after the five people sleeping inside escaped, said owner Therisa Brown, who added that there was no warning before her home was demolished.
"We woke up to the roof getting ripped off," Brown said. "We went to the living room, and we lifted a wall off of a friend who was staying with us. That's when the tornado circled back, and it hit the house again. We barely made it into the bathroom."
She said only a few exterior walls remained of her home. A photo from The Denver Post showed the ceiling and wall gone from about half the house, a stove standing in the wide open kitchen.
Chivington does not have its own weather siren, Sorensen said. Kiowa County has used grant money to offer residents low-cost, weather-alert radios, and an estimated 25 to 30 percent households have those radios, Sorensen said. An automated phone message warning of tornadoes also was sent to landline phones, as well as to mobile phones that were registered to receive the county's alerts, he said.
Sorensen said the areas hit were mostly isolated farmland. A tractor-trailer was blown over on Colorado Highway 96 near Chivington, in Kiowa County.
There was also a report of a tornado touching down near Yoder in El Paso County on Thursday night and damaging a barn, said Patrick Cioffi, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Pueblo.
Tornado season usually doesn't begin until May in Colorado. Overnight tornadoes are more common in Kansas and Oklahoma than in Colorado, where most severe weather is fueled by daytime heat, Cioffi said. He said the severe weather on the plains followed near record temperatures in the 80s.
Heat creates instability in the atmosphere, which can lead to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
A Lamar resident who took cover from the storm, Amy Braun, says she later learned the tornado sirens down the street from her house weren't working because the power had gone out. However, she'd signed up for the severe weather alert service: 9NEWS Weather Call. That call woke her up and found a safe place.
Braun's home wasn't damaged in the storm.
If you want to sign up for 9NEWS Weather Call, you can try it for free for 60 days. For more information, visit HERE
Power has been knocked out in Lamar and most of Prowers County because of the severe weather. Drivers traveling across the plains were warned to fuel up because gasoline wasn't available in the area.
No shelters have been established, said Catherine Barde, a spokeswoman for Pikes Peak Chapter of Red Cross.
"Right now we are just on standby," she said. "We are working with families on an individual basis."
Colorado Emergency Management has issued a statement asking people in the Lamar area to use caution due to downed power lines. They are reporting power is out in Lamar, Eads, Chivington and Sheridan Lake and surrounding areas. The statement calls damage to homes "considerable" and says power may be out for four hours or possibly longer.
The same band of storms also dropped snow in Breckenridge and the Eisenhower Tunnel, said forecaster Todd Dankers in Boulder. High winds swept the Western Slope, but no injuries were reported, he said.
Colorado's tornadoes happen to coincide with a deadly day in American history.
On April 27, 2011, 208 tornadoes touched down in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. It is the most recorded ever on a single day. A total of 316 people were killed, the fifth highest number of tornado victims in a single day.
April 27 fell right in the middle of a multi-day tornado outbreak, with nearly 360 deaths in 21 states, causing about $11 billion in damages.
What made that day even more notorious was the number of highly destructive tornadoes. Fifteen tornadoes were rated EF-4 or EF-5, the highest ratings. Alabama was the hardest hit, with nine violent tornadoes touching down.