By Michael Abeyta
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)– A devastating hail storm struck Southern Colorado on Monday, causing extensive damage to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, sending guests to the hospital and ultimately resulting in the deaths of five animals.
The animals and staff were caught off guard by the hail storm. The scene at the grizzly bear exhibit was hectic. Hail the size of softballs rained down on the bears and guests.
Days later on Friday, it was a much different story. A bright sunny day and lots of work by animal keepers means things are starting to get back to normal, but remnants of the hail storm are still visible.
Broken and boarded up skylights, battered roofs, and staff workers’ cars totaled from the storm are a stark reminder of just how damaging the storm was.
PHOTO GALLERY: Hail Storm Slams Into Colorado Springs Area
Dina Bredahl a long time zoo employee, says, “It was a crazy day. I’ve worked here 19 years and I’ve never seen anything like what we experienced that day.”
The zoo lost three animals. One, a Muscovy duck named Daisy who, just before the storm, was entertaining guests in her habitat.
Animal Care Manager Joanna Husby says, “She was diving underwater, she was splashing her wings so hard that guests were actually getting splashed.”
Thanks to quick thinking and actions of zoo employees, there weren’t more animals lost or serious injury to guests.
Rebecca Zwicker was actually off that day, but when she heard what was going on she rushed to the zoo to check up on her animals and the people who came to see them.
“Of course I wasn’t going to stay home. This is home away from home. I needed to come see how things were.”
There’s still some work that needs to be done, but the plan is to open the zoo on Saturday so people can come see that their favorite animals are doing okay.
“Our exhibits look great, our animals are looking great. We might look a little tired when we open tomorrow, but everything else is looking amazing,” says Zwicker.
The zoo has received some donations to open the doors. A donation of $150,000 from the El Pomar Foundation and $150,000 from Lida Hill. The zoo is still taking donations not only for the zoo recovery, but also to help staff members who were affected by the storm.