CLEVELAND - You don't hear a lot about tornadoes touching down in high mountain ranges. Maybe that's because there aren't many people who live above the 10,000 foot line. Well, several hikers in Colorado came face-to-face with a tornado this past week and have the photos to prove it.
At 2:51 p.m. on July 28, a tornado touched down near Mt. Evans, located within the Arapaho National Forest. It touched down halfway between Breckenridge and Denver. According to the Boulder National Weather Service, the estimated elevation where this tornado struck was near 11,900 feet.
This makes it the second highest tornado ever recorded in the U.S. According to witnesses, the tornado was weak, did not cause any damage, and quickly dissipated.
And it's happened before.
On July 7, 2004, hiker Scott Newton observed and photographed a tornado at 12,000 feet in Sequoia National Park, California near Rockwell Pass. This was likely the highest elevation tornado ever observed in the United States.
Even violent tornadoes can occur on mountain tops. On July 21, 1987, a monster EF4 tornado occurred in Wyoming between 8,500 and 10,000 feet up the mountain side. This was the highest altitude ever where a violent tornado was recorded.
Severe damage was left behind by a tornado that twisted at 10,800 feet in the Uinta Mountains of Utah on Aug. 11, 1993.
While not so lofty in elevation, the Salt Lake City tornado on Aug. 11, 1999 caused F2 damage.
The National Weather Service admits there are probably more high-elevation tornadoes occurring in the Western United States than we know about. It's simply the fact that people aren't up that high to observe them. Plus, it's also hard to get your storm chase vehicle up there.
(Mt. Evans tornado photos courtesy Karen Goodwin, The Original Weather Blog)
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Perspective from AP photographer Sue Ogrocki: By the time I got to Moore, all I could see was destruction. Mangled pieces of metal wrapped up in bare tree limbs. Adults carrying children in their arms.
The extent of the damage caused by Monday's tornado in Moore, Oklahoma is still being assessed, but there are many ways to help those affected.