/Weld County tornado was EF1, damaged 7 properties in Platteville area, officials say

Weld County tornado was EF1, damaged 7 properties in Platteville area, officials say


DENVER – Seven properties were damaged, including two homes that were destroyed, in Monday’s EF1-rated landspout tornado in Weld County, which brought winds of up to 99 miles per hour, the National Weather Service and county emergency management said Tuesday afternoon.

The Weld County Office of Emergency Management and National Weather Service conducted damage assessment on Tuesday to determine the path of the tornado, the destruction left in its wake, and its intensity.

According to Weld County, seven properties were damaged and two homes were destroyed – meaning more than half of the home was damaged. The estimated loss of the destroyed homes is $429,176. Three other homes were damaged to the cost of $101,336, the county said.

Two businesses – a feedlot and a dairy, which are included in the seven damaged properties – also suffered the loss of two buildings and damage to others. Weld County said the cost estimates for those properties are ongoing.

The National Weather Service said the tornado was rated an EF1, with maximum sustained winds of 99 miles per hour. The tornado traveled six miles and was on the ground for about 30 minutes.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning at 5:08 p.m. which was also pushed out through Weld County’s CodeRED system if they subscribed. Another tornado warning was issued at 5:24 p.m.

Preliminary records show the landspout tornado was first reported 2 miles north-northeast of Firestone at 5:02 p.m. Monday and traveled to the northeast.

It moved toward Platteville and Gilcrest, passing over Highway 66 and County Road 34 before dissipating at 5:32 p.m. 3 miles northwest of Platteville, according to the National Weather Service in Boulder.

Landspout tornadoes are formed when warm, humid air collides with cold, dry air –causing an updraft. They evolve with swirling winds at the ground level that get sucked into a non-supercell thunderstorm. Weld County has seen several over the past years.

What is a landspout tornado?

Power poles and lines were damaged in Monday’s tornado near Highway 66 and County Road 21, and one home was damaged after a power line caught fire. Weld County officials said Monday at least two other homes, a feed lot and a dairy lot had been damaged. As of Monday evening, The Weld County Office of Emergency Management said there were at least six damaged or destroyed structures.

No injuries to humans were reported, but the Platteville Gilcrest Fire District said some livestock were lost in the tornado.

Crews were out cleaning up some of the power poles and lines on Tuesday morning.

Miller Farms, located on Weld County Road 19 near the intersection with Highway 66, said in a Facebook video posted Monday night that some of its heavy equipment, including a combine and semi-truck trailer, had been tossed around by the tornado and hail and that some beet, carrot, sugar snap pea, radish and turnip crops had been destroyed.

Michelle Van Hoesen, who was born and raised at the farm that her grandparents started in 1949 before her parents took over in the 1980s, said she had never seen a tornado like Monday’s.

“I was in the kitchen with my kids and I looked up and I was like, ‘Gosh, that kind of looks like a tornado,’” she recalled Tuesday. “My husband’s like, ‘It’s a dust devil. It’s fine.’ And then I looked again, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s a tornado. We have to go.’”

She said the tornado tore through the middle of a 600-foot-long field, destroying most everything in its path but leaving some crops on the edges of the tornado’s path undamaged.

On Tuesday, the farm posted another video showing that some of the crops had been spared where the tornado had not moved directly through. The farm has a GoFundMe page and had already raised half of its $10,000 goal as of 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Van Hoesen said they will be able to salvage some of the sugar snap peas and replant some of the other crops.

“We just won’t have as much early stuff,” she said.

She described how a trailer was carried into the middle of a neighbor’s field and how some of the other equipment on the property was broken and damaged by the tornado.

“Mother Nature just sort of did her thing,” she said.

She thanked the community for the outpouring of support from the decades-old farm. Some of their farm vehicles were not insured, and some of the vegetable crops were not either.

“The outpouring of love and support that we’ve got from everybody is just amazing. There aren’t even words for how loved we feel by the community, because without that … it’s just another burden,” she said. “[The financial help] will help us be able to buy more seed. It’ll help us be able to repair the combine, purchase a new semi-trailer for the farmers markets.”

Ulrich Farms, located about a mile to the northeast of Miller Farms, also suffered “some pretty good damage,” as owner Rex Beall said. The tornado went through the center of the feed yard, took out some pens, buildings and homes.

Beall said between 70 and 100 people came out to help clean up after the tornado.

“It’s been amazing. I mean, it’s been a blessing for sure,” Beall said. “…You know, we’ve got good people, good banks behind us right now. And it’s just been – it’s been a blessing to have good people like that around.”

God willing, Beall said, they will move forward in the weeks ahead.

“We’re still in the beginning of it right now. So we’ll just see where we end up.”

Gerald Rusch and his mother, Rosalie Rusch, were inside their home off County Road 21 west of Platteville when the tornado hit – throwing the barn and flipping it on its roof and strewing debris across the property.

“Oh, it scared the heck out of me,” Rosalie Rusch said Monday. “Like as if trains collided.”

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The Rusches had a cat and what they thought to be four kittens staying in the barn and had found four of the kittens on Monday. On Tuesday morning, Gerald Rusch found a fifth that was alive and reunited it with the others.

“Good thing they got nine lives,” he said.

Much of his property is new strewn across the land – some of it destroyed. Equipment and other debris from nearby properties also made its way to his property, and he is trying to figure out what belongs to who.

He said after 50 years, it’s hard to say what will come next for him, his mother and the property.

“We’ve started putting our stuff together, and now, it’s all over,” he said, holding back tears.

He said his house is still standing and that he is working to connect with the insurance company to get the ball rolling on the cleanup and recovery and the buildings that were damaged.

And Rusch acknowledged that living with in Weld County, the most tornado-prone county in the U.S., tornadoes are a part of life.

“We’ve gotta learn to live with them, like everything else,” Rusch said. “There’s always some kind of disaster someplace – no matter what state you go with.”

Weld County is asking people who suffered property damage in the tornado to send their photos of the damage to this email address to be included in the damage assessment report.

The National Weather Service is expected to release more information about the tornado, its intensity and damage caused in the coming days.

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