DENVER — A brief but fierce storm pummeled concertgoers with golf ball-sized hail as they scrambled for cover at the famed Red Rocks Amphitheater near Denver, injuring dozens and forcing the cancellation of the show’s headliner, former One Direction member Louis Tomlinson.
As many as 90 people were treated for injuries from Wednesday night’s storm at the outdoor venue in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and seven people were taken to a hospital, West Fire Rescue said. Some were hurt by hail and others had broken bones, bruises and cuts while seeking shelter, but no injuries were life threatening, fire rescue spokesperson Ronda Scholting said.
Hail piled up like snow in some spots in the amphitheater, which was carved out of a sedimentary rock formation. The show was initially delayed because of the weather, with fans told to take cover in their vehicles, according to tweets from the venue. The concert was subsequently canceled.
Sprinkles of hail began falling as Nicole Criner 28, and her sister were making their way to the car to escape the intensifying storm. Before they could make it, larger hail stones began pelting them, and they grabbed a small plastic sign at the venue’s entrance to cover their heads.
Criner said the sign kept their heads partly covered, but their hands, backs and shoulders were pelted by stinging hail. Criner’s glasses fell from her head and were swept away in a river of hail flowing nearby.
Criner shared a video of the moment to Twitter where concertgoers can be seen running as her sister screamed in pain from the hail striking them. Others sought hiding places under trees and in bushes.
“We were hiding under this like plastic sign, but it was super windy, and we were trying to hold it above us on our heads but then our hands were getting hit with the hail,” she said. “We weren’t completely sheltered so we got hit on our shoulders and our back.”
Criner and her sister escaped the hail when a car drove up and the driver called them inside along with others who couldn’t find anywhere else to hide. Bleeding with a bump on her head, Criner and her sister were able to reconnect with their father and his girlfriend they had lost in the chaos.
A day later, she said, she was still sore and bruised.
“I still have an egg bump on my head,” she said Thursday, when another round of thunderstorms dropped large hail in parts of the Denver area.
Beth Nabi, 44, had flown in from Dublin, Ireland, to watch one of her favorite musicians perform at the Colorado venue. At around 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday, she said, she could see lightning and thunder approaching in the distance.
As the weather deteriorated, concertgoers were encouraged to seek shelter.
But not wanting to give up hope on seeing Tomlinson, Nabi stuck around. She said the hail started falling while she was in a bathroom and that the bathroom quickly filled up with other concertgoers trying to escape the hailstorm.
“I came out of the bathroom stall to a bathroom filled with as many people who could cram in there, all seeking shelter,” she said.
The storm lasted about 10 minutes before she could leave the bathroom and see all the hail covering the ground.
“The hailstorm was just crazy. It was apocalyptic. It was fast,” she said.
To cap things off, she returned to her rental car to find its windshield cracked in several places and the hood dented. Nabi said she is anxiously waiting to hear on when the concert will be rescheduled.
“I am gutted it didn’t go on,” she said. “’I’m hoping we get some news on when it can be rescheduled, and I hope I can make it because I was so looking forward for the experience at that venue.”
Tomlinson tweeted that he was “devastated” about the cancellation and promised to return.
“Even though we didn’t play the show I felt all of your passion! Sending you all love!” he wrote.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater is located about 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Denver.
Dupuy reported from New York.