Store owner speaks on Denver tornado almost 30 years ago

DENVER – Tornadoes in the heart of Denver are rare. But they can happen, as they did 29 years ago on June 15, 1988.

Claudia Helmstaedter made a scrapbook of the one that hit EMW Carpets and Furniture — the store her family has owned for generations.

“I found as many newspaper clippings as I could just to kind of document,” she said. “There were five tornadoes that day.”

EMW Carpets and Furniture is no stranger to unusual disaster-like events. One of the newspapers at the time wrote about it and Helmstaedter clipped the article.

“This was a funny article because we had a fire and a flood and now a tornado,” she said. “This little store just keeps on churning through all these natural disasters.”

Helmstaedter wasn’t at the store herself on June 15, 1988, but her husband was.

She showed up the next day with her camera, channeling her inner 9NEWSer — at least that’s what her own caption shows.

“I’m a 9NEWS person from way back,” she explained smiling.

You can see photos of that photo and her other clippings below.

Her brother in law and the store’s co-owner J.C. Helmstaedter was at the store and remembers it all very well.

“It was around 4:30 p.m. and at the time, we saw people across the street looking at your building,” he said. “I ran out to see what they were looking at it was coming our way.”

His staff huddled together; no one got hurt.

“It was kind of a quick thing, it was a minute or two in time,” he said.

“It was an unusual tornado for Denver,” said 9NEWS storm chaser and weather geek Cory Reppenhagen. “We have the mountains to disrupt the storm system as it moves into us and a lot of times the mountains and the foothills are actually what creates the lift that creates the big thunderstorms, so when they’re in the Denver Metro area, right along I-25, they’re just in the developing stage. It really takes an unusual set of circumstances wind-wise to pin those to our area.”

Helmstaedter says his family’s store can weather any weather.

“I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been somewhere for such a long time, maybe we’ll be struck by lightning someday,” he laughed.

With their track record, anything is possible.

Since 1988, several tornadoes have done damage along the Front Range, including one at Southlands Mall and in the town of Windsor.

© 2017 KUSA-TV

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