By Chris Spears

DENVER (CBS4) – It’s been just over a decade since a rare killer tornado touched down in southeast Colorado, ripping through the small town of Holly without warning. The twister hit just before 8 p.m. on March 28, 2007, touching down two miles south of town.

I was working behind the scenes at a different television station here in Denver at the time. When the warning came out I looked at radar and thought it was a mistake. That’s because the severe thunderstorm was not properly detected by Doppler weather radar because it was too far away from the nearest radar sites, which are located in Pueblo and Dodge City. By the time the radar beams reached Holly they were several thousand feet above the ground. Because the thunderstorm wasn’t very tall it remained below the radar beams and therefore wasn’t seen as a major threat. Thankfully many improvements have been made to weather radar since that deadly storm.

(credit: CBS)

The half-mile wide tornado was rated an EF-3 with maximum winds estimated to be around 150 mph. It moved in a northerly direction for 28 miles and was on the ground for nearly 30 minutes. A tornado of this strength would be unusual for Colorado during any time of the year, but it’s especially rare for the month of March.

Two people lost their lives and eight others were injured by the tornado. The fatalities were the first tornado-related deaths in Colorado since 1960 and the earliest ever recorded in our state.

A view from the air after an EF-3 tornado heavily damaged the small town of Holly, Colo. on March 28, 2007. (credit: CBS)

The damage in Holly was extensive with 164 single family homes impacted by the powerful storm. Of those 23 were completely destroyed and 18 others had substantial damage.

The Holly tornado was the earliest tornado with a classification of EF-2 or higher on record in Colorado. The previous was an F3 tornado on April 27, 1923. (note the Fujita scale was changed to the Enhanced Fujita scale in 2007)

Chris Spears