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The Greenhorn Mountain tornado nobody saw

Trees snapped and Uurooted in various directions, indicating intense rotation. Photo via the NWS

It wasn’t until late June the National Weather Service realized there had been a tornado in the southern Rockies more than a month and a half earlier, when there was still snow on the ground in the Wet Mountains.

The NWS reports it got a call from a US Forest Service employee in late June. The forest service worker was heading up Forest Road 369, and at the end of the road there were snapped trees. The employee had remembered a tornado warning from the NWS on May 8.

After some inspection of the tree damage, the NWS concluded that up more than 11,000 feet on the tallest mountain in the Wet Mountain range a tornado had indeed happened:

“The only indication of a possible tornado was data from Pueblo’s Doppler radar. NWS Pueblo issued a tornado warning at 2:20 p.m. MDT, shortly after, the radar indicated a strong velocity couplet (seen under the Radar tab).  The velocity couplet indicated a rotational velocity of 95 mph.  As the supercell propagated towards the north-northwest, it entered into a less favorable atmosphere to sustain it’s intensity, and quickly dissipated.”

The damage, which was up at about 11,300 feet, was consistent with an EF1 tornado — around 100 mph.

In early May “the road up to Greenhorn Mountain was under deep snow, and no one was up there to witness the tornado,” NWS officials said, adding that the tornado was a classic example of when “complex interactions between weather and steep topography create unusual outcomes.”

Base of the tree in the foreground, with the rest of the tree in the background. Photo via the NWS

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Written by Kara Mason

Kara Mason is PULP's news editor. She is also the Society of Professional Journalists Colorado Pro Chapter president. Kara freelances for other regional publications, covering government, politics and the environment.

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