The Town of Windsor Colorado. population 16,000, was the worst hit, a substantial part of the town torn apart. People in various states of shock, and miraculously, an entire day care center of over 240 children, torn into toothpicks, but all children safe and sound.
Update: Excerpt From The Denver Post, today, a day after:
Hundreds of businesses and homes in the town of 18,670 were damaged. Trees and power lines were down throughout Windsor. Cars were smashed by falling trees and poles. Some were overturned.
On a farm just outside of Windsor …dead calves were strewn on the road nearby. The bodies of cattle littered a field nearby, and shredded metal was everywhere…
Officials say at least 200 homes and businesses have been damaged. Of those, about 100 were destroyed. …[Governor Bill Ritter wrote to the Federal government]: “In addition, there was significant damage to private businesses, livestock and agricultural equipment, and publicly owned facilities and infrastructure”
State Farm Insurance estimates it [alone] will receive… about 5,000 claims for automobiles and 3,000 for homeowners.
Federal officials from Northern Colorado, Marilyn Musgrave and Wayne Allard wrote that the affected communities represent the “backbone of America.”
“They are made up of strong western folks: good, hard-working, self-reliant people who won’t ask for assistance unless it is absolutely necessary. Mr. President, your assistance is necessary,” they wrote.
This area is deeply agricultural made of generations of ranchers and working people, and has recently added a gentrification layer as people from the larger surrouding cities saw the now semi-rual town to be an oasis of calm and beauty.
First, down came the storm of winds on this small town of homes and businesses. Then came hail so big that some children caught out in the storm on their bicycles had bruises the size of softballs from the hail beating down on their thighs and shoulders.
Then came the mutton leg of black cloud hanging from the sky, growing larger and darker and wider and dropping its long trunk to the ground where it picked up sod and topsoil, trees.. expanding to 35 miles wide at its base… then masticated buildings, animals, vehicles, fences.
It came blasting across 8 towns, and overturned an entire oil tanker train, tore buildings open so you could in some places see pictures still hanging on the walls inside, making it all look like 100 lumber yards had exploded.
People are staying with friends. Or at nearby hotels. Many families have come down to Denver, just a short drive away. The Governor has declared this part of the state in Emergency. Red Cross is already on the ground. Bulldozers and back hoes and cranes already brought in, and lifting up debris, seeking people who might be trapped… so far, only one poor soul, an old veteran who, according to a friend, tried to out-drive the storm in his pickup… and didn’t make it.
All animals at the animal hospitals were rescued, including Sassy the cat, who was at first thought to be lost. But no, at the last, she was carried out of the debris in her little travel cage looking scared and outraged at the same time.
Being in touch with folks at the scene tonight, I was so struck by the contrast between what happened here with most everyone’s houses destroyed, no electricity, water interrupted, vehicles crushed and overturned, trees uprooted everywhere, electrical wires down, phone lines down, and rubble piles where houses and businesses and office buildings used to be…. contrasted with China
—China’s regime, which didn’t allow bulldozers and cranes and teams of earthquake experienced structural building rescuers from Japan in until over a week had passed since the earthquake… how at first Chinese people shown on TV were confident, saying, No, no, our government will get my mother out of the ruin; No, no, our government will take care of us; they will find our family members.
But, then, later, the same day, as the brave young people in the Chinese military climbed the treacherous piles trying to rescue any who might still be alive… the pick-up-sticks condition of the fallen buildings was so dangerous, they had to call off further searches with finality. Then, the same woman whose mother had still not been found, and who was so sure her government would help her, fell to the ground screaming in grief… and was followed in succession by other survivors screaming and falling to the ground as the message that whomsoever was still under the ruin would remain buried there.
Tonight, I thought how lucky we are tonight in Colorado. Even though so much is gone. Help is here. Tonight, we’ve been lucky.
In the topmost photo, the white on the ground is not clover in bloom, it’s the hail that preceded by just minutes the huge black tornado you see in the photo; it has just hit the ground roaring like a monster on the horizon
In the last two photos, that’s not a piece of rebar broken in half. Those are two of the several oil tankers from a train that were overturned by the tornado.
The last photo is typical damage to many homes and businesses in Windsor and several other towns hit yesterday. Today, the rescue workers say 70% of the town of Windsor has been searched for people possibly trapped in the collapses. One immediate danger at scenes of such structural damage are the natural gas lines to the structures.