Well, we’ve arrived in severe weather season and, while it has been roaring in the central high plains for a while, it’s starting to pick up in Colorado now. We’ve already seen a few tornadoes in extreme eastern Colorado and now it looks like the hail, wind, and tornado threats are starting to move to the west and will be in the front range before too long. While June is typically the busiest month for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in Colorado, May has its fair share of wild weather events and serves as an introduction for the season.
Today we’ll start our severe weather season for the Denver metro area with a small chance of some hail and high winds although any significant hail and any tornadoes should stay to the east of town along I-76. High moisture in the region will feed storms that currently look like they’ll start on the eastern side of the metro area. On days when we see southeasterly winds (from the southeast), a feature called the “Denver Cyclone” tends to develop which is a broad circulation of air caused by our unique terrain that spins counter-clockwise. The Denver Cyclone aids in the development of thunderstorms and can develop areas of colliding air that produces tornadoes around Aurora, Parker, and Elizabeth. Today, however, any tornado threat should be along I-76.
Understanding Thunderstorm Threats
Below is the Storm Prediction Center’s storm outlook for today. The different categorical outlooks are familiar for those that have lived in places like Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. However, those of us that have lived in Colorado or in other locations may not be as familiar with the classification system. The Denver area and the northeastern Colorado plains is under a slight risk area which means that there could be hail between 1-2″, damaging winds, and one to two tornadoes. The I-76 corridor is under an enhanced risk for severe storms which means that severe storms will be fairly widespread, damaging hail and wind reports will be common, and a few tornadoes are possible. A graphic describing severe thunderstorm threats has been added below. The threat category colors correspond to the colors on the map.
Storms will develop to the east and north of the Denver area early this afternoon between 1-2 pm local time. These storms will intensify and will follow the I-76 corridor to the northeast and will eventually turn into a line of storms that exits the state into Nebraska and Kansas. A primary storm will have the possibility to produce large hail, strong damaging winds, and a few tornadoes. Towns in the immediate impact area include Akron, Brighton, Brush Lochbuie, Fort Morgan, Holyoke, Sterling, Wiggins, Wray, Yuma.
Updates will be made during the day as storms occur. Ask any questions that you have.