Monster Twister Rips Through Colorado, Killing at Least One

A monster tornado ripped through Colorado, Thursday, with wind gusts up to 130 mph flattening hundreds of homes and businesses and killing at least one.

Adding to the misery, hail the size of golf balls poured down in some of the hardest-hit towns, small farming communities in northern Colorado

And the aftereffects of those storms caused torrential rains and created mudslides in Southern California, while wildfires spread through the northern part of the state.

Oscar Michael Manchester, 52, who had been living in a camper in Greeley, Colo., was killed when he tried to outrun the storm in his RV, according to The Associated Press.

"I yelled at him to come with me and he tried to drive off," Pete Ambrose, a caretaker at the RV camp, told the AP. Ambrose found shelter in a cinder-block restroom as the storm passed.

As many as 24 tornadoes touched down in the area. The National Weather Service said the largest tornado touched down just before noon near Platteville, Colo., about 50 miles north of Denver. During the next hour, it moved northward past several towns along a 35-mile-long track toward Wyoming.

The dark, ominous clouds seemed to devour everything in the tornadoes' path -- uprooting trees, ripping away roofs and windows and downing power lines.

Fifteen freight train cars on Colorado's Great Western Railway were knocked right off the tracks by winds clocked at 150 mph. Interstate 25, the major freeway in Northern Colorado, was closed down for hours, and 60,000 people in the area lost power.

Truck driver Nathan Watson found himself stranded and fearing for his life when his big rig went airborne.

"All of a sudden I felt the truck just pick up -- it's an 80,000-pound truck -- and it just picked it up and laid it over into the other oncoming lane," Watson said.

A day-care center with at least 100 kids was also slammed by the twister, but the kids took shelter in a bank vault across the street.

One mother said, "When I saw her, we were all crying in here, I just told them how much I loved them. You never expect something like this."

But the storm wasn't done. As it moved east, several tornadoes touched down in Wyoming and Kansas, causing damage to buildings.

About 100 people have died in U.S. twisters so far this year, the worst toll in a decade, according to the National Weather Service, and the danger has not passed yet. Tornado season typically peaks in the spring and early summer, then again in the late fall.

Fire on the Mountain

The wild weather didn't stop there. The aftereffects from those storms, including torrential rains in Southern California, caused mudslides in Orange County, while wildfires spread through the northern part of the state.

Fires, fueled by parched trees and ferocious winds, burned out of control in the steep Santa Cruz mountains.

As thick smoke rolled over his family's home, Curtis Cobb said, "It's just a little scary with the wind, and we kind of want to have the family out of here."

Fire crews tried to hit the flames hard from the sky.

"We aren't going to get out in front of it with the wind-driven flames, so we're just trying to corral it the best we can," said one fire chief.

While fire is the problem in Northern California, torrential downpours in the southern part of the state have caused serious damage.

Many people were forced to evacuate their homes near the Orange County canyons, as mudslides hit the same area charred by last year's destructive wildfires.