Photo: From the wreckage: A resident of Holly, Colorado, tries to salvage clothes and other items from the remains of her home.Photo: AP
The tornado that devastated the southeastern Colorado town of Holly, killing one, had winds up to 165 mph as it cut a 15-mile swath of destruction through Prowers County on Wednesday night. It was the first fatal tornado in Colorado since 1960, and only the second Category 3 tornado to hit southern Colorado since 1995. The path of damage was 600 feet wide. “We typically don’t get these longtracking, very violent tornadoes in Colorado." Tornadoes form at the dividing line between cool dry air and warm moist air, coming from different directions. This time of year, that line is usually several hundred miles to the east, which appeared to be the case Wednesday night. A tornado watch was in effect for neighboring Kansas, but not in southeastern Colorado. So forecasters were surprised when radar showed some circulation, which they were still evaluating when a spotter called at 7:57 p.m. to report a funnel cloud touching down a mile south of Holly. It moved fast, 50 to 60 mph, and hit the town at 7:58, before the warning could be sent to local media and emergency officials. Early estimates indicated 35 homes destroyed and 32 heavily damaged, or 15 percent to 20 percent of the homes in the town of about 1,000 people.