Residents of a devastated neighbourhood grabbed what they could from their debris-strewn homes before police imposed an overnight curfew after a tornado swept through northern Colorado, killing one person and injuring 13.
The twister skipped through several towns in Weld County yesterday, damaging or destroying dozens of homes, businesses, dairies and farms. The storm system pelted the region with golf-ball-sized hail, swept vehicles off roads and tipped 15 rail cars off the tracks in Windsor, a farm town about 70 miles north of Denver.
Governor Bill Ritter toured the area and declared a local state of emergency, but an inventory of damaged homes had to wait until daylight today. Federal, state and local officials were assembling damage assessment teams overnight.
Severe storms, some including tornadoes, also ripped through parts of Wyoming, Kansas and California yesterday.
The large storm cloud descended nearly without warning, touching down near Platteville, about 50 miles north of Denver. Over the next hour, it moved northwest past several towns along a 35-mile-long track and into Wyoming.
The tornado overturned 15 railroad cars and destroyed a lumber car on the Great Western Railway of Colorado, said Mike Ogburn, managing director of Denver-based Omnitrax, which manages the railroad. Fourteen of the overturned cars were tankers, but they were empty.
Jim Kalina, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said two or three major storm cells affected the area and officials were trying to confirm how many tornados touched down.
Watch video footage of the Colorado tornado
Weld County is known as a prolific tornado spawning ground, with about seven typically reported there each year, according to the weather service.
About 100 people have died in US twisters so far this year, the worst toll in a decade, according to the weather service, and the danger has not passed yet. Tornado season typically peaks in the spring and early summer, then again in the late autumn.