The May tornadoes near Oklahoma City killed 33 people, including the Colorado research team, Twistex, led by Tim Samaras of Denver. Despite the distance between Falcon and the Oklahoma disaster areas, some Falcon area residents and business owners say the lessons should hit home because of the area's own severe weather history.
The Oklahoma tornadoes in Moore and El Reno were both rated EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale of tornado damage, according to the National Weather Service. The Enhanced Fujita scale ranks tornadoes from zero to five, with five being the strongest; based on the damage the storm does to a variety of building types.
While the states to the east of Colorado are better known as Tornado Alley, twisters and severe thunderstorms still frequent the Pikes Peak region and the eastern plains.
Southern Colorado is better known for historically significant blizzards and winter weather than tornadoes. Falcon historian Ingrid Mcdonald said a large blizzard had a significant effect on early Falcon history. “Everyone was stuck in the local hotels for at least three days, and it killed over a hundred head of cattle and sheep, as well as several people who were out there. It was a big impact on the sheep industry that was important here at the time,” she said.
Records of the National Weather Service from radar and spotter sources show that Falcon, Peyton and Calhan have seen a number of tornadoes over the last several years. In August 2005, an EF0 tornado 150 feet wide struck along Stapleton Drive, between Meridian Ranch and Woodmen Hills; near the current location of Falcon Fire Station 1. Since 1990, about 24 tornadoes have touched down in the Black Forest, Falcon, Peyton and Calhan areas. Almost all were EF0 or EF1 strength, according to the NWS. These two classes of twisters include estimated wind speeds between 65 and 110 mph, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
Other nearby communities have been hit with stronger tornadoes. A 1990 EF3 tornado destroyed a significant portion of Limon. Holly, in Crowley County, was hit by a 600-foot-wide tornado in 2007 that killed one person and injured 10.
Several reports of wind and hail that could cause damage to homes or injury to exposed residents have already been reported this season. A June 18 storm produced over 1-inch hail in southern Falcon and sustained winds of 69 mph at Meadow Lake Airport, according to storm reports filed by NWS-trained spotters.
“Inch to inch-and-a-half hail can break the framing of your windows,” said Frank Triantos, owner of All Windows and Doors Plus. Wind speeds over 60 mph can damage the latching and weather stripping of exposed doors on the affected side of the house, as well as screens. “I have pictures of torn-up screens and cracked glazing on a house I worked on from that size hail. The south facing part of your house is more likely to have problems because of ultraviolet and heat deterioration,” Triantos said.
“I've seen damage of up to $50,000 to homes from storms even without tornado winds in this area. Hail driven by the winds we see here can damage all the exterior surfaces of a house,” said Scott McIntyre of Total Roofing. “Winds of 50 mph or above can start damaging roofing, and we had 70 mph sustained winds with gusts to 90 here in Falcon a couple years ago.”
McIntyre said a good rule of thumb to determine if there is roof damage is if the hail was large enough to damage the surface of a car or truck. If so, it was strong enough to damage the roof. “Once you have a couple shingles loose, even just our normal wind can start tearing the others back. It's that whole ounce-of-prevention thing,” he said.
In addition to inspecting property for loose tiles or items that can be tossed in the air and cause damage, Falcon residents should be aware of the weather alert notification option on many cell phones, McIntyre said. Severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings are reported to cell phones that have the option turned on, as well as weather radios and local television tickers. According to the NWS, a severe thunderstorm warning is issued if a storm is expected to produce hail at least a half-inch in diameter, winds of 58 mph or stronger or a tornado. Any of these can cause damage to homes, or injury or even death to people caught outside.