May 042005
Authors: Jen Utter

Denver's Channel 7News hosted the first annual Spring Storm Seminar Tuesday at the Fort Collins University Park Hotel Holiday Inn.

Two hundred people attended the event to listen to weather experts discuss weather phenomena such as tornados, flash floods, lightning and super cells.

"Colorado has so much weather, which is why people are so fascinated with it," said Mike Nelson, chief meteorologist at Channel 7News.

For Colorado, summer doesn't just mean hot, sunny days; it also means dangerous, possibly deadly, weather.

The seminar focused on the weather conditions that can occur in Colorado and what people should do when a storm hits.

"Lightning is the No. 1 weather killer," Nelson said. "When hiking and climbing in the mountains, get yourself down by early afternoon."

Flash flooding is also a big concern in Colorado, said Matt Kelsch, meteorologist for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research's Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training program.

"Very few people that die of floods die from drowning but rather from traumatic injury," Kelsch said. He said approximately 89 people die in floods every year; half of these deaths occur in cars.

Sandy MacDonald, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Forecast Systems Lab in Boulder, discussed super cells, which are the "mother of the big tornados."

"A normal thunderstorm is like a kitty cat," MacDonald said. "A super cell is like an angry lion."

MacDonald emphasized the importance of having storm warnings out hours, instead of minutes, before the storm actually occurs, keeping people from getting hurt or killed.

MacDonald, reading from his PowerPoint presentation, said, "When a tornado comes to your neighborhood, we want you and your family somewhere else."

The evening also focused on some of the latest technology used to track tornadoes, including The Hardened In-Situ Tornado Pressure Recorder (HITPR), which is a conical probe that accurately measures the barometric pressure in tornadoes.

The probes are placed on the ground in the path of tornadoes and collected after the tornado has passed. A probe uses seven video cameras for 360-degree viewing, including vertical viewing, said Tim Samaras, world-renowned tornado researcher.

Unable to attend the seminar, Roger Hill, a storm chaser for Silver Lining Tours, gives storm-chasing tours to those interested in severe weather and tornado hunting. Tours in Colorado are available through Silver Lining Tours.

For more information about taking a storm chasing tour, visit

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