By Justin McHeffey

When you think of the most prevalent area for tornadoes in the United States, chances are northeast Colorado doesn’t come to mind. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Dixie Alley all evoke images of the most common places for tornado touchdowns. While that is true, especially in the case of large and fatal tornadoes, Weld County has recorded a higher number of tornadoes over the past 65 years. Some of this has to do with its favorable environment for storms, but the main reason has nothing to do with weather.
Take a look at a map of Colorado, and by any standard Weld County is quite large. In fact, it’s about four times the national average for county size — this tends to skew the tornado data.
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According to the Tornado History Project, 270 confirmed tornadoes have hit Weld County from the years 1950–2015. The only other U.S. county to break the 200 mark in this time period was Harris County, Texas. Although Weld County falls outside the traditional Tornado Alley, it claims a statistically higher likelihood than anywhere else in the country — an average of four per year.
The size of the county makes all the difference. Weld County takes up a huge plot of real estate — about 4,000 square miles of it. More land area means more tornadoes. Most of these happen during the months of May and June, and several have already been reported this season.
Local terrain features also add to the incidence of twisters. The Cheyenne Ridge north of Greeley and the foothills cause more humid air to collect and help produce tornadoes. These two boundaries can corner the unstable air and support the rapid development of severe storms.
One person was killed and 78 others injured when a large tornado cut a 39-mile path through Northern Colorado on May 22, 2008. (credit: CBS)(credit: CBS)

One person was killed and dozens were injured when a large tornado cut a 39-mile path through Northern Colorado on May 22, 2008. (credit: CBS)

On May 22, 2008 a large tornado cut a path 39 miles long through Weld County. The violent EF3 ripped through the city of Windsor causing damage in the hundreds of millions.

Justin McHeffey provides nightly reports from the Mobile Weather Lab. He travels Colorado in search of Mother Nature’s most powerful and beautiful conditions. Like his Facebook page Meteorologist Justin McHeffey and follow him on Twitter @WeatherMcHeffey.

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