FAMILIES shelter in church after tornado smashes through Colorado town

Tuesday, May 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ELLICOTT, Colo. (AP) _ Dozens of residents of a sparsely populated town in southern Colorado spent the night in a church after a tornado crushed trailer homes, sprayed hail and injured 18 people.

``We just hit the floor in the living room and covered the kids and the tornado hit,'' said Trish Davidson, whose mobile home was lifted into the air and dropped 10 feet from its foundation.

Davidson and about 30 other people spent Monday night in the basement of the Ellicott United Methodist Church. Power was out to the church and much of the surrounding area.

As the sun came up Tuesday, the extent of the damage was clear. Ellicott's high school took a direct hit from the tornado. Its roof was torn off and pieces were hurled a quarter-mile away.

Barns were flattened, trees knocked down and seven trailer homes smashed to bits. People had to be evacuated from the area because part of the roof hit a large propane tank, ripping the valve off and starting a leak. Crews were trying to plug the leak early Tuesday.

Seventeen people were treated at one hospital for an array of injuries. A woman was brought to another hospital with bruises and a broken shoulder and toe. Most of the injured were released by Tuesday morning.

The storm moved in shortly after dinner time Monday and dumped about 6 inches of hail, some the size of nickels, on Ellicott, a town of about 4,600 people. The hail had mostly melted several hours after the tornado moved through.

Missie Long and her great-grandmother, Ella May Burnham, took shelter in their milk barn. The tornado blew over a horse barn, but their home was spared.

``We looked over and saw the trailer park disappear and that's when we decided we better skedaddle,'' Burnham said. ``We are just real thankful we all got through this alive.''

Karen Krause said she saw the storm from the front doorway of her double-wide trailer in Ellicott, about 15 miles from Colorado Springs. She said it came with no warning as darkness fell.

``It busted windows out of my husband's truck, 20 feet from the house,'' she said.