LIMON, COLO., JUNE 7 -- Block after devastated block of this farming town today told of the visit by a tornado. But siren blasts gave the 1,800 residents here precious minutes to take shelter, and none was killed.
Three guests at the Lariat Hotel piled into a bathtub and pulled a mattress over them when the tornado siren sounded at dusk Wednesday.
"We were doing a lot of praying in that bathtub," said David Thomas, who shared the cramped quarters with Arley Boston and Carl Riley.
The tornado tore their room apart.
"It felt like somebody just reached down and squeezed your whole body. My eardrums were coming out," Thomas said.
Town Clerk Teresa O'Dwyer said she ran to Town Hall when the siren sounded and put the town records in the vault.
Minutes later, the tornado ripped the front off the building.
As residents picked up the pieces today, officials toured this town about 80 miles southeast of Denver.
Streets were cluttered with metal, wood and other debris left by the tornado that hopscotched down Main Street shortly after 8 p.m., yanking down walls and roofs, overturning rail cars and smashing a grain silo as if it were a soda can.
Business owners stood guard against looters, and police patrolled.
"We're lucky to be alive," said Angie Spencer, cradling her cat as she surveyed what was left of her house.
"We went underneath the house and under a crawlspace and it sounded like an earthquake. We just heard everything rumbling and ripping and when we got out, everything was gone."
Gov. Roy Romer estimated damage between $20 million and $40 million. He said about 90 percent of the businesses and government offices were damaged or destroyed, and about half the town's 750 homes.
Romer said he would seek federal disaster aid for the town.
At least 12 people were injured, but just two remained hospitalized today, one in fair condition and one listed as stable.
Lincoln County Sheriff Leroy Yowell was driving down Main Street when he saw the tornado looming behind him.
He and other residents alerted the Colorado State Patrol, which sounded the civil defense siren, giving five to six minutes warning.
While some residents complained the siren was drowned out by hail, many credited it with saving lives.