Colorado weather: Severe thunderstorms cause EF-1 tornado, hail and flooding

Kevin Beaty/Denverite
Damaged stop signs and uprooted trees in Highlands Ranch where a tornado was also spotted during severe weather on Thursday, June 22, 2023.

Updated 9:40 p.m. on Thursday, June 22, 2023

A tornado that traveled more than six miles across Highlands Ranch on Thursday has been rated an EF-1 based on damage and wind speeds, federal forecasters said Thursday. No deaths or injuries have been reported.

The damaging weather system moved through the Front Range, Eastern Plains and Southern Colorado on Thursday afternoon. The tornado started shortly before 3:30 p.m. and was active for about 20 minutes, preliminary data from the National Weather Service show.

Forecasters warned the storm could generate up to baseball-sized hail, and the weather service recommended people stay indoors while the worst of the weather moved through.

The storms increased flood risks in eastern Colorado. The weather service warned of high water in streams and low-lying areas, along the Front Range. Bijou Creek could overtop its banks in Elbert, Adams, Arapahoe and Morgan Counties through midday Friday.

“Take shelter in a sturdy building, away from windows. People and animals outdoors will be severely injured,” warned emergency alerts that popped up on phones across the metro area.

A number of roads and bridges were closed due to flooding conditions in Elbert, Arapahoe and Douglas counties. Richmil Ranch Open Space in Arapahoe County was temporarily closed as well.

This week's storms have already caused at least one death after a car was swept off the road by high water in a rural part of Arapahoe County late Wednesday night. Emergency crews recovered a body from the vehicle after the flooding receded Thursday morning.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
A tree torn out of the ground by serve weather outside Thunder Ridge High School in Highlands Ranch, Thursday, June 22, 2023.

Minor damage from tornado in south metro Denver

The tornado that spun off from the storm was spotted west of Highlands Ranch, tearing up trees, knocking over fences and blowing over trampolines.

The danger was short, and the tornado warning was lifted shortly after 4 p.m. The risk has shifted east, to more rural parts of Arapahoe County.

The weather service released a preliminary damage track from the tornado Thursday evening.

Heavy storms disrupt Red Rocks concert, set new records

Concerns about hail damage continue to be high, following a chaotic Wednesday night at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, where a storm pelted concertgoers with hail and rain. Seven people were hospitalized and as many as 90 people were injured after the storm.

National Weather Service forecaster Paul Schlatter said the best course of action is to get inside for the incoming hail and that “even a car [helps] for this type of storm.”

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A severe storm moves across the E-470 in the Denver metro, Thursday, June 22, 2023.

This latest round of torrential rain has pushed the already-soggy state past numerous records. Earlier Thursday, the National Weather Service announced Colorado Springs had already received 9.34 inches so far in June, making it the rainy month ever recorded in the city.

In Denver, this is the rainiest June since the 1880s. The city set a daily rain record on Wednesday.

This is a developing story and will be updated.