The National Weather Service in Pueblo has confirmed a tornado as the cause of downed trees near the highway that leads to Pikes Peak summit on Thursday.
The NWS has preliminarily rated the tornado an EF-1 with wind gusts reaching 108 mph, based on a damage surveycompleted Friday.
According to that damage survey, the tornado caused damage along a two-mile stretch of Pikes Peak Highway – between mile markers 5 and 8 – and crossed the highway in two different spots.
It was on the ground for about eight minutes.
Klint Skelly, a warning coordination meteorologist with NWS Pueblo, said the tornado caused damage at an elevation between 9,000 and 9,500 feet.
The Pikes Peak Twitter account shared a brief video tour of some of the damage, which included uprooted and broken trees as well as snapped power lines.
On the afternoon of July 20, 2023 Pikes Peak-America's Mountain was hit by a tornado. Preliminary rating is EF1 with winds reaching 108 mph. Thankfully, there were no injuries or fatalities. pic.twitter.com/w2OM1TT8GH— Pikes Peak (@drivepikespeak) July 21, 2023
Brad Carroll snapped a series of photos showing trees uprooted and scattered across the mountain face. Damage was spotted near Crystal Creek Reservoir in Teller County, near the El Paso County border.
Tornadoes are rare at elevation.
"It takes a very particular atmospheric set-up for a tornado to form and the vast majority of the time that doesn't exist over the mountains," Skelly said. "the atmosphere needs to be warm and moist at the surface, dry and cold aloft, and have wind shear."
"Tornadoes are a rare phenomena in general - even when the ideal atmospheric set-up is present [...] That ideal set-up that I described forms even less over the mountains."
and in Teller County specifically. Only six tornadoes were recorded in the county from 1950-2012, according to NWS data. Another occurred in 2015.