Tornado rips CO town

BY LARA BRICKER | ELLICOTT, CO | May 29, 2001



"Folks have pulled together. There's a lot of hope here."

—Rev. John McKenzie


fast-moving tornado cut a swath through the community of Ellicott Monday evening, leaving approximately 60 homeless, injuring 18, and destroying the town's high school.

The twister touched down at 7:26 p.m. in Ellicott, a small town about 20 miles east of Colorado Springs, Colo., according to Pamela Evenson, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Pueblo, CO.

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning at 5 p.m. as well as severe thunderstorm warnings for much of El Paso County from 5 p.m. until 11:45 p.m. Due to the warnings, some residents were able to evacuate before the tornado touched down.

The most damage from the tornado occurred in a very localized area, Evenson said, estimating the twister damaged an area about one mile in diameter. Mobile homes in three separate parks were flipped over and the town's one-story high school was leveled by the storm.

A smaller tornado was reported at 8:30 seven miles south of the town of Rush, CO, Evenson said. The last tornado to hit the area was in the summer of 2000 in Rush, although damage was minimal.

Eighteen people were injured during yesterday's tornado; most of them were transported to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, according to hospital spokesperson Taneda Schreuder. The most serious injury resulting from the tornado was to a 6-year-old girl, who suffered a broken leg. The girl's condition was upgraded to fair Tuesday morning. "Everything else was abrasions, cuts and bruises," Schreuder said.

The Colorado Springs Chapter of the American Red Cross set up an emergency shelter in the Ellicott Baptist Church. The Rev. John McKenzie of the Ellicott Baptist Church was in his house behind the church when the storm picked up Monday afternoon. His home fared better than many in town, with only a few broken windows.

"It was really quite an event," the pastor said, adding the storm had three violent bursts, which he heard from inside the church. "Folks have pulled together, there's a lot of hope here."

Many of the people in the shelter were returning from the holiday weekend, only to be sent to the shelter before even reaching their houses, due to a propane tank that had flipped over near the high school. Residents were evacuated in a half-mile area of the propane tank.

"There was a lot of fear as far as the idea of not knowing," McKenzie said. "A lot of people did not know if their homes had made it, so there was a lot of apprehension."


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