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Five Years Later, Memories Of Windsor Tornado Still Raw

Bryan Dahlberg

All eyes are on Moore, Oklahoma following this week’s massive tornado. The National Weather Service has confirmed the twister an EF5. Five years ago an EF3 tornado tore through parts of northern Colorado with the most damage occurring in Windsor.

On May 22, 2008 the tornado destroyed 78 homes mostly in Windsor, and damaged as many as 3,000 850 others along its 39-mile path. One person was also killed. Editor's Note: According to the National Weather Service, at least 850 homes were damaged by the Windsor tornado, with nearly 300 significantly damaged or destroyed. We regret our error.

For those not living in Windsor, there are few signs to indicate what happened. For those who lived through it, like Herb Brady, Windsor Severance Fire Rescue Chief, the signs are everywhere.

“There’s a lot fewer trees,” said Brady. “From my time in Texas, I knew what tornadic storm activity looked like. The color, the way the clouds were shaped and the rotation. So I instantly knew it was very bad. And I instantly knew that this storm was over Windsor.”  

The mid-spring tornado, moved in an unusual direction for Colorado. Originating in the southern part of Weld County, the storm moved north and then west through Windsor before dissipating as it crossed over into Larimer County.


Windsor Mayor John Vazquez had been in office less than two months when the storm hit. “All of a sudden I saw a big black wall come outta the southeast, it came off the bluff,” said Vazquez. “At first I just thought it was another intense thunderstorm and that the hail and the rain was going to get a lot worse.”

Listen to live KUNC coverage during the 2008 Windsor tornado

Vazquez says the recovery process after the tornado was relatively quick. Five years on, buildings and homes have been rebuilt and lives have mostly returned to normal. While he’ll never forget that day, this week’s devastating tornado in Moore has placed the damage and recovery efforts in the front of his mind.

Credit It's Our City / Flickr - Creative Commons
Flickr - Creative Commons
A home damaged by the 2008 Windsor tornado sits abandoned. 78 homes were destroyed and thousands were damaged by the tornado in its 39 mile path.

“There’s isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on some aspect of that year of my life from the time the storm happened to when we declared as a community that it was time for Windsor to have a new story,” said Vazquez.

Fire Chief Herb Brady agrees. Five years ago, his sons were among the hundreds of school children celebrating the last day of school in Windsor. “I talked to them yesterday, and they were looking at the images on TV from Oklahoma and they knew what these kids were experiencing in some small way, even though their school was not hit directly,” said Brady. “My youngest son said they were in the hallway, crouched down, and it sounded like a freight train, and it was tearing the roof off.”

Both Chief Brady and Mayor Vazquez say the community came together in the aftermath of the tornado clearing debris from yards and streets, fixing street signs and helping each other rebuild.

Vazquez says that community spirit has changed Windsor’s story.

“The town that really has a community that really comes together in a time of need, and you know our reputation is a real tight knit group of northern Coloradoans who are pretty tough,” said Vazquez.

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