At Least 4 Tornadoes, Large Hail Smack Colorado

By: Greg Botelho
By: Greg Botelho
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(CNN) -- A fierce weather system -- featuring baseball-sized hail and multiple tornadoes -- ripped through Colorado on Wednesday afternoon, spurring warnings to people in and around Denver to take cover.

The frenzy is tied to a dangerous super cell thunderstorm that, in addition to heaps of hail, produced a number of twisters, according to storm chasers on the scene.

Citing preliminary storm reports, the National Weather Service said there were four tornado touchdowns in Watkins, East Denver and Aurora. One witness, Jeff Piotrowski, said shortly after 3 p.m. (5 p.m. ET) that he had personally seen five tornadoes on the ground not far from Denver International Airport.

"This thing is spinning up multiple tornadoes," Piotrowski told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "There were tornadoes on the outer ring of the circulation, ... and then there's the main tornado vortex closer to the storm."

One of those got within about a mile of the Denver airport, only to move past it, according to Piotrowski.

The airport wasn't struck, though it was certainly affected. Its Twitter feed reported 38 flights were diverted and average delays of 90 minutes, not to mention the ordeal of removing hail and water from the airfield.

Likewise, the city of Denver and neighboring municipalities appear to have escaped without significant damage. The heart of the system then moved into more rural areas.

Storm chaser Mark "Storm" Farnik said it could still do some damage.

"There's a lot more stuff out here than there used to be," Farnik told CNN from his perch, about 9 miles north of Bennett. "This used to be the middle of nowhere, but not anymore."

A tornado watch was in effect for Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Jefferson, Larimer, Morgan and Weld counties in Colorado through 8 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. Wyoming counties of Goshen, Laramie and Platte were under the same watch, for the same time period.

Even if these areas escape without severe wind damage, the hail -- the size of baseballs, according to Farnik -- might not be so kind.

The weather service's Boulder branch retweeted a photo of about 6 inches of accumulated hail in Denver's Green Valley Ranch, plus another showing highway 470 restricted to one lane because of the hard, white stuff.

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