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Rural Coloradans Need To Find Alternative Means For Tornado Warnings

CHIVINGTON, Colo. (CBS4) - Clean-up continued in southeastern Colorado over the weekend after a string of tornadoes. Five twisters touched down early Friday morning in three counties around Lamar and Chivington and at least 14 homes and a hog barn were damaged or destroyed.

Residents along the Front Range are used to hearing tornado sirens. But in Chivington in Kiowa County the population is only 20 people. That means no tornado sirens, which also means folks in rural areas need to rely on other ways of being warned.

In a matter of minutes, a tornado destroyed what Josh Brown built over three years.

"We did the whole house; cabinets, wiring, insulation, drywall, floors, all the fixtures; everything was brand new," Brown said.

Brown said there was no advance warning, just the wind racing through Chivington at 2:30 a.m.

"The wind just got crazy and it woke me up. I sat up in bed and it ripped the roof off the house, and I sat up and watched the roof go," Brown said.

Doppler radar indicated a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado. That's why weather alert radios can be a lifesaver, so is signing up a cellphone for a reverse 911 call through a county, or using an landline phone.

"At least one older style phone plugs directly into the wall and actually receives power over the telephone company's line, so when the power is out that phone would still ring and provide warning," Chris Sorensen with the Kiowa County Sheriff's Office said.

The tornadoes also damaged property near Lamar.

"I heard some windows shatter and then I jumped on him and I told him to start grabbing onto stuff. I could hear the roof coming off," one tornado victim said.

Unlike Chivington, Lamar is large enough to have tornado sirens and they did the job while people slept.

"I talked to a gentleman today, his son came in their bedroom, said, 'You know the sirens are going off.' So they took cover in the basement," Lamar Mayor Roger Stagner said.

As for the Brown family, luck saved them instead of technology.

"I sat here in the doorway and watched the house fly away," Brown said.

The last time a tornado hit Kiowa and Bent counties after midnight was 1942. There were no weather alert radios and probably no tornado sirens. Four people died back then. This time no one died.


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