May 102009
 
Authors: Brandon Iwamoto

AURORA – A tornado touched down in the middle of a popular southeast Aurora outdoor shopping mall early Sunday afternoon, dropping golf ball-sized hail and leaving a trail of debris in its path.

While a few of the nearby business along the shopping center were untouched, most sported shattered windows and far more significant damage. A number of cars were overturned, as well.

Colorado State junior actuarial science major Andrew Lape was at a restaurant on the south end of the mall when the tornado hit.

“There was a bunch of us in the restaurant and we just gathered around and watched,” Lape said. “There was hail falling everywhere and chairs were being flipped over.”

“We just kind of watched in awe. Everyone did. Nobody wanted to leave because nobody knew what was going to happen.”

University of Northern Colorado junior art major Erin McDonald was closer to the storms epicenter, in a nearby Hot Topic store.

“My dad called and told us to go look outside and we saw the funnel cloud,” McDonald said. “It was coming down and going back up and we went back inside when it started hailing,”

“Park benches and those fake rock speakers were flying everywhere.”

Police officers came around following the storm to help evacuate the stores, many of which had shattered windows and various other damages.

The building that houses Red Brick Pizza had sections surrounding the restaurant sucked empty, with gaping holes on both the north and south sides of the building with a large pile of debris on the south side.

Southlands Cinema, a movie theater located on the north end of the main drag, featured broken box office windows and various damage outside of the front entrance.

The Southlands Cinema employees, standing outside due to a natural gas leak inside the building, called for rides and took pictures of the devastation, much of which included their own cars.

Authorities began evacuating shoppers and curious onlookers shortly after the storm passed, citing multiple gas leaks throughout the mall. Officials declined to comment on injuries caused the by storm.

Staff photojournalist Brandon Iwamoto can be reached at Photo@Collegian.com

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