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Historic Denver Hailstorm Was Called Worst In American History

DENVER (CBS4) – At the time, it was the costliest hailstorm in the history of Colorado, and was called the worst in American history.

On July 11, 1990, a severe thunderstorm developed near Estes Park and traveled southeast, dropping golf ball to baseball sized hail, in a swath that was at times, 5 to 10 miles wide.

July 1990 hail storm damage (credit: CBS)

July 1990 hail storm damage (credit: CBS)

The storm crossed the foothills, moved through the heart of the Denver metro area, and finally weakened northeast of Colorado Springs.


Some of the hardest hit areas included the southeast side of Boulder, Arvada, the east side of Wheat Ridge, the south side of Westminster, downtown Denver, Littleton, the east side of Lakewood, Castle Rock and Franktown.

Thousands of homes sustained major damage to roofs, windows and siding. Tens of thousands of automobiles were battered by the hailstones, many, a complete loss.

Street signs were stripped of paint, traffic signals and street lights were broken, and thousands of shrubs, plants and trees were stripped of their foliage.

July 1990 hail storm damage (credit: CBS)

July 1990 hail storm damage (credit: CBS)

In many neighborhoods, the storm drains became overwhelmed by the hail, causing streets and basements to flood.

In northwest Denver, 47 people were injured by the hail when they got stuck on rides at the Elitch Gardens amusement park.

The storm also spawned two small tornadoes, one touching down near Kipling and 6th Avenue in Lakewood. The second twister hit the Founders Village neighborhood in Castle Rock, causing F-1 rated damage.

Losses totaled over $600 million, at the time, making it the costliest hailstorm in state history.

The hailstorm of July 20, 2009, now ranks as number one.

But in 2013 dollars, the 1990 event is still ranked number one, with the adjusted damages totaling just over $1 billion.

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