These are two of the most destructive severe weather elements for Colorado. The Front Range of Colorado is second only to a plateau in China, when it comes to hail frequency. It can be pea size or the size of a softball. When it comes to wind damage, most of what we see is not tornado related. It is purely straight-line, and can sometimes cause a lot more widespread damage than a tornado. Good NWS information below:
Damaging Wind and Hail...
ACROSS THE STATE OF COLORADO...MAINLY DURING THE WARM SEASON…THUNDERSTORMS CAN DEVELOP BY MIDDAY AND CARRY ON INTO THE EVENING HOURS. AS MENTIONED EARLIER DURING THIS SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK...SOME THREATS FROM THUNDERSTORMS INCLUDE TORNADOS...FLOODING AND LIGHTNING.
TORNADOS CAN BE THE MEDIA HEADLINE IN COLORADO...BUT DAMAGING STRAIGHT LINE WINDS OF TORNADO AND HURRICANE FORCE CAN ALSO INJURE AND KILL ANIMALS AND HUMANS. DOWNBURST WINDS FROM A THUNDERSTORM USUALLY RESULT WHEN AN AREA WITHIN THE STORM IS QUICKLY COOLED BY RAIN...HAIL...OR EVAPORATION. THIS POCKET OF COOLED AIR...HEAVIER THAN THE SURROUNDING AIR...ACCELERATES DOWNWARD TO THE GROUND. AS THE COOL AIR SLAMS INTO THE GROUND...IT SPREADS OUT FROM THE AREA OF IMPACT. THIS PROCESS...IN EXTREME CASES...CAN CAUSE WINDS GREATER THAN 100 MPH. WEATHER FORECASTERS CALL THESE BURSTS OF WIND MICROBURSTS IF THEY ARE LESS THAN 2 1/2 MILES ACROSS AND MACROBURSTS IF THEY ARE GREATER THAN 2 1/2 MILES ACROSS.
THESE DOWNBURSTS OF AIR CAN BE VERY HAZARDOUS AND EVEN LIFE THREATENING TO PILOTS AND CAN CAUSE EXTENSIVE DAMAGE...INJURIES AND FATALITIES AT GROUND LEVEL AS WELL. TRY TO GET INDOORS DURING ALL THUNDERSTORM ACTIVITY. HIGH WINDS CAN SUDDENLY DEVELOP...WHICH CAN CAUSE THINGS ON THE GROUND TO BECOME SWIFT MOVING AIRBORNE MISSILES.
HAIL...ANOTHER THUNDERSTORM THREAT...OFTEN OCCURS IN COLORADO. HAIL FORMS WITHIN THUNDERSTORMS AS LIQUID WATER FREEZES IN THE COLD MID AND UPPER LEVELS OF THE STORMS. THE HAILSTONES ARE KEPT ALOFT BY STRONG UPDRAFT WINDS FOR A TIME...THEN WHEN THEY BECOME TOO LARGE TO BE KEPT ALOFT BY THE UPDRAFTS...THEY CASCADE TO THE GROUND. HAILSTONES VARY FROM PEA SIZE...ABOUT 3/8 OF AN INCH IN DIAMETER...TO LARGER THAN GRAPEFRUITS...NEARLY 5 INCHES IN DIAMETER.
HAILSTONES CAN DO TREMENDOUS DAMAGE TO FARM CROPS...EITHER AS LARGE HAILSTONES OR AS A PRODIGIOUS FALL OF SMALL HAILSTONES THAT ACCUMULATE TO A DEPTH OF SEVERAL INCHES. LARGE HAIL CAN EASILY DAMAGE VEHICLES AND BUILDINGS...AND CAN BE LIFE THREATENING TO ANIMALS AND PEOPLE. AGAIN...TRY TO GET INDOORS DURING ALL THUNDERSTORMS. A FALL OF SMALL HAIL CAN SUDDENLY CHANGE TO A FALL OF VERY LARGE ICE MISSILES...THAT CAN INJURE OR KILL.
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ISSUES SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNINGS FOR WINDS OF 58 MPH OR HIGHER AND FOR LARGE HAIL ONE INCH IN DIAMETER OR LARGER. REALIZE THAT SOME STORMS ARE CAPABLE OF MUCH LARGER HAIL AND MUCH HIGHER WIND...SO WHEN YOU HEAR ABOUT A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING...SEEK SHELTER.
Chief Meteorologist Brian Bledsoe
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