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Funnel cloud, heavy rain in Colorado Springs

By: Alison Noon and Jesse Paul and
July 13, 2013 Updated: July 14, 2013 at 6:18 am
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In another twist to the weather saga that has become the summer of 2013, a funnel cloud near Pikes Peak had many scratching their heads Saturday afternoon.

But by the end of the day, the intense thunderstorm that settled over Colorado Springs caused no real damage, perhaps scaring a few through the booms and shakes of violent - yet harmless - thunder. And at least for a day, the region escaped the kind of major damage wrought by the black wave of runoff from the Waldo Canyon fire burn scar.

It was a day of weird weather in the region as many held their breath for the umpteenth time in recent weeks, hoping that Saturday storms would hold off enough to keep flood sirens from sounding. While El Paso County made it through the day relatively unscathed, the weather forced the cancellation of a flight into the Colorado Springs Airport, kept local roads damp and offered a slight glimpse into what forecasters are predicting will be a weekend filled with precipitation.

The National Weather Service in Pueblo confirmed a funnel cloud appeared briefly above Cheyenne Mountain Saturday at about 2:30 p.m. while heavy rain fell in the southwest portion of the Colorado Springs. A thunderstorm rolled into the region Saturday that brought widely dispersed rainfall throughout the area.

The funnel caused an apparent stir on social media sites, where citizens were quick to snap pictures and video. The ominous cloud packed more bark than bite, though.

The cloud was caused by severe thunderstorms, Randy Gray, meteorological technician with the service, said. It was not a threat to safety and the service's biggest concern remained rainfall at burn scars.

While such clouds are rare in the mountains, they aren't impossible. In past years there have been a number of similarly reported weather events.

Funnels that do form in thunderstorm conditions have a lifespan of about 10 minutes, Gray said.

"They can extend hundreds of feet down from a parent cloud and then they usually dissipate in a matter of minutes," he said.

The flash flood watch in effect for the county will continued through Saturday evening and will resume Sunday afternoon through late Sunday night.

"There's a lot of cells all over El Paso County," Kathy Torgerson, a meteorologist with the service, said. "So far, Waldo has taken a miss."

About .1 inch of rain fell on the Waldo Canyon burn scar by 3:30 p.m. and a light drizzle added to that later in the day. The most rain accumulated in southern portions of the city, where .82 inch was gauged northwest of Fort Caron and .23 was recorded four miles west of Fountain.

The service did not have rain gauges automated in the Black Forest burn area, but radar indicated about an inch fell eight miles northeast of the city of Black Forest. The Broadmoor hotel area saw a little over half an inch.

The service issued a flash flood watch Saturday for all of El Paso and Teller counties, the Rampart Range in Pike National Forest and, specifically, areas recently affected by fires.

"People in and near the recent burn scar areas of south central and southeast Colorado should remain aware of the increased potential for locally heavy rainfall and flash flooding," the service said. "Make sure you have a plan of action should heavy rain occur or a flash flood warning is issued."

In Manitou Springs, some business owners were weary of the light precipitation following recent flooding that destroyed a number of homes and swept cars off US 24, but it would be hard to tell that anything was out of the ordinary from the looks of pleased tourists snacking on funnel cakes and sipping lemonade.

The worst weather impacted northeast Colorado and Denver where flash floods and hail kept emergency responders busy throughout the day, The Denver Post reported. Other than one homeless man who was rescued a creek in the state's capital and a few delayed flights at Denver International Airport, the thunderstorms were simply a summer annoyance.

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