At 6 AM the cheering crowds pack the field at the Aurora Municipal Center as Mayor Steve Hogan fires the starting shot. Nearly one thousand runners begin the long trek as thousands of spectators line the streets, jockeying for the best position to cheer and watch as contestants pass by. Roads are blocked as the participants of the event circumnavigate the city.
As the morning progresses, the temperature rises and clouds begin to form, a common sight across the Colorado Front Range. Runners and spectators alike are thankful to see the clouds coming, looking forward to the cover from the Mile High hot sun. As a supercell takes shape, people continue activities, hoping that the race completes before the rain comes down.
In late morning the storm intensifies. The winds increase and a funnel cloud forms over Englewood. A tornado touches down at Yale and I-25 in southeast Denver. Several miles from this location spectators watch with amazement before realizing that the tornado is headed on a northeast track, right through the center of Aurora.
At Yale and I-25 cars and semis have been tossed like rag dolls. Businesses and homes are completely destroyed. The tornado is nearly a half mile wide and shows no sign of retreat. It continues on its deadly path for over a dozen miles, destroying critical infrastructure in its path. The core of the tornado passes directly over the Aurora Municipal Center destroying the complex, including the police station, fire station, court house, museum and severely damaging the city jail. Along its long path the tornado, later estimated to be a strong EF4 to a weak EF5, destroys the Medical Center of Aurora, two malls and the Community College of Aurora. The core of the twister passes over the center of Buckley Air Force Base. It retreats back to the clouds at the southern tip of the Denver International Airport, shutting down all airport operations.
The storm causes a failure of the power grid. Electricity is out. Cell towers and 800 towers are down. Land lines are jammed and it is not long before the phone system fails completely. Trees are down. Gas lines are ruptured and water main breaks are prevalent. There are sporadic fires across the city.
In the wake of the storm there is an unknown number of casualties and known fatalities can be identified almost immediately. Police, fire and EMS are unable to respond to the scope of the disaster. Volunteer units are some of the earliest response available.