In Colorado, all hail breaks out

Res­i­dents sur­vey the dam­age from floods, tor­na­does and more as they brace for more bizarre June weather.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By David Kelly David Kelly is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent.

BERTHOUD, Colo. — Joe Gar­guilo emerged sleepy-eyed from his house Satur­day af­ter en­dur­ing another night of pound­ing rain and wind, com­ing on the heels of a tor­nado that had ripped through his prop­erty a few­days ear­lier.

“See that horse trough by the van?” he asked, point­ing to the end of his drive­way. “I don’t own a horse; my neigh­bors don’t own a horse. So how­did it get there?”

He bent down and picked up a lone cow­boy boot.

“Whose boot is this?” he asked. “Who knows? I don’t know. No­body knows.”

That’s an in­creas­ingly com­mon sen­ti­ment in Colorado, where res­i­dents have been baf­fled by a bizarre mix of weather fea­tur­ing de­struc­tive hail­storms, nearly a dozen tor­na­does, flash floods and light­ning il­lu­mi­nat­ing the night skies.

In May, al­most daily rain made a mock­ery of Colorado’s un­of­fi­cial slo­gan tout­ing its “300 days of sun­shine” per year. Lo­cal news pro­grams even of­fered seg­ments on SAD, or sea­sonal af­fec­tive disor­der, to help res­i­dents fight off the gloom.

But while the daily rain has mostly re­treated, huge storms have moved in.

The city of Den­ver on Fri­day dis­patched snow plows to re­move 4 feet of golf ball-sized hail that nearly buried one West­side neigh­bor­hood. The day be­fore, tor­na­does de­mol­ished three homes and dam­aged more than a dozen oth­ers in Boul­der and Larimer coun­ties. Five more were man­gled in Simla on the East­ern Plains. Mean­while, swollen rivers threat­ened to over­flow their banks.

Na­tional Weather Ser­vice fore­cast­ers say the may­hem has been caused by an in­ter­sec­tion of hot weather and low-level mois­ture. They pre­dicted more storms this week­end.

Per­haps no place has been hit as hard as ru­ral Berthoud, about 50 miles north of Den­ver, where a tor­nado struck Thurs­day night.

Gar­guilo, 62, who has lived here since 1978, was in the base­ment watch­ing “The De­parted” when he heard a noise.

“I go up­stairs and all of a sud­den my ears pop, and then ‘whoosh,’” said the Brooklyn na­tive, a re­tired en­tre­pre­neur. “I don’t want to say it sounded like a freight train, but it sounded like a freight train.”

His win­dows im­ploded, al­low­ing driv­ing hail to pelt his wa­ter bed, set­ting up what he de­scribed as “a very messy sit­u­a­tion.” He shoved the bed out of harm’s way. The shower backed up with sewage.

“I thought the roof was go­ing to cave in,” Gar­guilo re­called, walk­ing around his shat­tered backyard. “The hail sounded like metal hit­ting metal.”

When he fi­nally got out­side, he found his beloved satel­lite dish crum­pled, his fences ripped off and his swim­ming pool choked with fence parts. A sheet of metal, sharp as a buzz saw, had flown in from some­where and wrapped around an aspen tree.

“Of course it didn’t hit the dead aspen,” he said.

A bro­ken limb im­paled his roof and a 4-by-8 sheet of ply­wood perched atop his tow­er­ing blue spruce tree.

“I built my own lit­tle Xanadu here. I smoke my cigars, watch my movies; I have good liquor,” he said. “But I never saw any­thing like this — noth­ing even in the ball­park like this.”

Gar­guilo was most stunned by a pair of glasses left out­side that re­mained per­fectly in­tact while ev­ery­thing nearby was ru­ined.

“What do they weigh, 2 ounces?” he asked. “I thought that­was the coolest thing of all.”

Around the cor­ner, the dam­age was worse. Home­owner Richard Scott, 75, watched the tor­nado head­ing straight for him. He made it into his son’s base­ment next door, with just sec­onds to spare.

“I was be­ing pep­pered with de­bris as I tried to­get to the house,” he said. “When I was in the base­ment the house just blew up around me. We still had the ceil­ing above us but ev­ery­thing else was gone.”

When the fam­ily emerged 45 min­utes later, they found three metal stor­age con­tain­ers about the size of trac­tor­trail­ers flipped up­side down in a field. The house had its walls torn off, half of the garage was miss­ing and a stately tree once fes­tooned with swings lay up­rooted.

“I wasn’t pre­pared for the de­struc­tion,” Scott said. His daugh­ter Tammi stuck her head through the oval win­dow in the front door. “There used to be glass in here,” she said.

The prized 1971 white pick-up truck be­long­ing to his wife, Ty, lay in a grassy field 100 yards from where it once sat. Bits and pieces of it — a bat­tery here, a bro­ken head­light there — were strewn like bread crumbs mark­ing the route.

“That was my joy,” she said as she walked to­ward the crushed truck. “My joy.”

She bright­ened a bit af­ter find­ing some­thing in the tall grass.

“Look at that,” she ex­claimed. “I still have my shovel!”

Other homes on the road were de­stroyed. Some were miss­ing roofs, doors and win­dows.

“It’s all just stuff,” Richard Scott said. “Ev­ery­one is alive. That’s all that mat­ters.”

Far­ther south near Lyons, al­most de­stroyed dur­ing the floods of 2013, Molly Hard­man, 60, wel­comed a new ad­di­tion she’d had de­liv­ered to her yard Fri­day night — a bright­green portable toi­let.

Tor­ren­tial hail had de­stroyed the fam­ily’s sep­tic sys­tem.

“When I getupto take the dog out, I go out aswell,” she said.

The hail wiped out her veg­etable gar­den, with some plants look­ing like they had sus­tained shot­gun wounds. A fish pond had been nearly buried by a rock slide and their cars were pock­marked by hail.

“It was deadly to go out there,” said Hard­man’s hus­band, Gor­don, 64.

As an aero­space en­gi­neer, Molly Hard­man works on cli­mate-change is­sues and is con­vinced this kind of weather is a di­rect re­sult of that phe­nom­e­non.

“It just re­in­forces what I know about cli­mate change andthe im­pact it’ shav­ing on our­planet,” she said. “Ithink we are go­ing to see a lot­more of this.”

Kathryn Scott Osler Den­ver Post

JAZMIN PARA, right, helps her sis­ter Brisa walk through the deep hail that blan­keted Den­ver and sur­round­ing ar­eas dur­ing re­cent storms.

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