TRINIDAD, Colo. - (SATURDAY)
UPDATE: The National Weather Service has rated Friday's tornado that touched down east of Trinidad, as an EF-1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
An EF-1 is capable of producing winds of up to 110 miles per hour. The NWS used broken power poles in the area as indications of the funnel's strength.
KRDO Stormtracker 13 meteorologist Jay Polk said the tornado was unique because of its power and that it stayed on the ground for nearly an hour -- something that rarely happens in Colorado.
"The last time we had a tornado in the Trinidad area was in 1983," he said. "Before that, it was in 1965. It's just unusual to have a storm like that so far south, and so close to the mountains. Manitou Springs had an EF-2 tornado in 1979. But this isn't typical."
In fact, Polk said Friday was an especially active day for tornadoes across the state, with four tornado warnings and six twisters sighted.
"It's not really a trend," he said. "It's just an active spring for tornadoes."
Polk also said researchers may find it interesting that the tornado came close enough to a witness that it nearly sucked him into the funnel, and scarred his back with flying debris.
"Being that near a tornado is extremely rare," Polk said. "Someone might write a paper about it. There have been papers about Front Range tornadoes before. A researcher may want to know more about the tornado from the perspective of the witness."
In the wide-open spaces east of Trinidad, neighbors are miles apart. The horizon is clear, beyond a sea of prairie grass and piñon trees. It's not a place where a squirrel could sneak up on you, much less a tornado.
But a twister Friday did catch Wyatt Schrepfer by surprise.
"I had my headphones on," said Schrepfer, 18.
Schrepfer was mowing weeds on a tractor in his parents' driveway without a clue what was chasing him.
"It was coming in on my over my left shoulder so I didn't see it," Schrepfer said.
But he finally felt it.
"The hood of the tractor blew up and when I stood up to pull it back down, my hat flew off behind me, so I turned and saw it," Schrepfer said.
The tornado twisting its way closer to him.
"My first reaction was to take cover," Schrepfer said.
Exposed, Schrepfer figured he couldn't outrun it.
"I tucked in next to the tractor, but then it started moving so I tried running, but it kind of pulled me back into it, so I just decided to lie down," Schrepfer said.
In a small depression with his hands covering his head, he said he doesn't remember hearing the freight train sound that so many people describe.
"Honestly, I couldn't even tell you. I was just so worried, I didn't pay attention to how it sounded," Schrepfer said.
Miles away, his father and one of his employees, Jeff Sepulveda, were watching the tornado as it headed toward the Schrepfer household.
"I could see large trees floating around in the funnel. It was just a surreal experience, I've never seen anything like it," Sepulveda said.
Somehow, those trees missed Schrepfer, who walked away with only welts on his back where debris smacked into him.
"Just happy to be here," Schrepfer said. "I would have been right in the center of it if I'd have been 25 yards down the driveway."
He was almost in the wrong place at the wrong time.