Tornado touches down near Denver International Airport
6:30 PM, Jun 18, 2013
9:11 PM, Jun 18, 2013
DENVER - A confirmed tornado touched down near Denver International Airport Tuesday afternoon, sending travelers on the concourse, on planes and in the terminal scrambling to get into tornado shelters.
The tornado, spotted on the eastern side of the main terminal, was described as moving northeast at 5 miles per hour before it lifted, weakened and then dissipated, according to photographer and storm chaser at NewsChannel5's sister station in Denver.
The initial reports of a funnel were first reported around 2:18 p.m.
It brought with it 97 mph wind gusts and some hail, according to the National Weather Service. However, no injuries or damage were reported.
Travelers at DIA were instructed to seek shelter in designated areas such as the restrooms, stairwells, and basement, leaving the concourse eerily empty for about 30 minutes.
Ashley Picillo, who was flying out to Seattle, said she was eating lunch when announcements began.
"We were very quickly escorted into the shelters. A lot of people were brought into bathrooms. We were actually brought into a lower level stairwell," Picillo said. "They brought water in for people, did a really nice job keeping everyone informed."
"We want all the people, if they are at the airport to move away from the windows, get themselves into one of those designated shelter areas, that's the safest place to be right now," said DIA spokesman Heath Montgomery when the tornado warning was first issued.
The all-clear was sounded at the airport around 2:45 p.m. and all tornado warnings for the area have been expired. However, it appears that all flights are delayed for about 30 minutes.
"We're very thankful all the passengers listened to the emergency announcements. Employees took it seriously and employees helped passengers with sheltering ... We stuck to our emergency plan," said DIA spokeswoman Laura Coale.
Members of the Colorado Rapids team were already boarded on a plane, heading for Chicago, when they were taken off the plane and escorted to the basement and bathrooms.
A Frontier spokeswoman said all Frontier aircraft that were loaded were off loaded and all moved to safe areas in the terminal and employees did the same.
The customer relations and service offices located near the airport also evacuated to safe areas as well, but they are now back to work online and on the phone, said Frontier spokeswoman Kate O'Malley.
KMGH meteorologist Matt Makens said a trained spotter reported two potential tornadoes on the ground. The DIA operations center also reported one possible touchdown.