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Hail, rain pummel Front Range

AP PhotoA woman wearing flip-flops walks through a pile of hail after a storm in downtown Denver on Tuesday afternoon.
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DENVER ” A spring storm pummeled the Front Range with up to 4 inches of hail and heavy rain on Tuesday, trapping drivers in flooded intersections and stinging pedestrians with cold, hard hailstones.

A tornado warning was issued for the plains 60 miles southeast of Denver.

Lightning strikes damaged at least two homes in Fort Collins, Poudre Fire Authority said. One home caught fire, suffering about $35,000 in losses. The other had a hole in the roof and an estimated $2,000 in damage.

Grape-sized hail clattered down on part of Denver at midday, blanketing many downtown streets, parking lots and Coors Field, where the Rockies were to play the Cardinals later Tuesday. There was no immediate word on whether the game would be postponed.

The hail piled up 4 inches deep at Elitch Gardens amusement park, a spokeswoman said. Drivers were caught in up to 3 feet of water in some intersections, but no serious injuries were reported, Denver Fire Department spokesman Phil Champagne said.

“It hurt. I probably got bruises. It was huge,” said Brazil Redd, 21, of Edgewater, who got caught in the hail. “I got soaked.”

She was outside when the rain and hail began, having her car towed away after a hit-and-run collision.

Marty Thrall plodded through a half inch of hail in a short-sleeved T-shirt, shorts and sandals.

“I didn’t know it was going to be this icy,” he said.

Drivers scurried to get under bridges or into garages. Insurers braced for damage claims, but dollar value may not be down for a couple of days.

“We’re in a wait-and-see mode until we can get claims in and have adjusters look at damage,” said Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

“Certainly, we are in hail alley. We get more severe hail here than almost anywhere else on Earth. It’s not unusual,” she said.

A tornado warning was issued for Elbert County. Most of the northeastern quarter of the state was under a tornado watch.

Denver firefighters were inundated with calls about trapped drivers, manhole covers lifted by torrents of water rushing into storm drains and fire alarms accidentally triggered by the storm, he said.

“We’ve been really taxed to the max when it came to our resources, because it was such a fast-acting, wide-range storm,” Champagne said.

Northeast Denver, where 3 inches of hail fell, “was a winter wonderland,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Denver firefighters rescued a mother whose 2-year-old son was swept away by a flash flood along a bike path where they were walking.

At Elitch Gardens, the hail broke lights and downed small trees, prompting the park to close several hours early, spokeswoman Brooke Gabbert said.

Visitors were guided to shelters and then moved out of the park after the storm passed.

“With the severe hail, we have to recheck all the rides. It would’ve been a while before we would have been able to reopen,” Gabbert said.

Spotters with the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, which began at Colorado State University, reported minor flooding in Larimer, Boulder and Jefferson counties.

The storm front was moving south, and National Weather Service forecasters in Pueblo said they expected severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes.

Xcel Energy reported scattered power failures.

In northern Colorado, snow and poor visibility closed Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park.


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