When bad weather strikes during mid-fall in northeastern Colorado, it typically takes the form of one of two weather conditions. Strong, damaging winds are common as are significant snowstorms. Both types of events dominate a look back at this week in Denver weather history.
It was 16 years ago on October 29 that high winds pummeled the Front Range foothills with gusts up to 100 mph. Five people were injured near Rocky Flats when the wind blew out windshields in vehicles. One man that was trying to secure a camper was killed when it was blown over on top of him. Damage from the powerful winds was estimated at $2 million.
Just three years ago a storm system brought three days of wintry weather during the period from October 27 to October 30. In the foothills the snow was measured in terms of feet while in town the totals were impressive as well including 13.3 inches measured at Denver International Airport. Travelers were put up in Red Cross shelters as Interstate 70 and I-76 were closed east of Denver. Hundreds of flights at the airport were cancelled.
Denver’s most significant November snowstorm occurred during the period from November 2 to November 5 in 1946. This monstrous storm dumped a total of 31 inches of snow at the old Stapleton Airport site. An astonishing 17.7 inches of that was recorded on the 2nd and 3rd, the most ever recorded in a 24 hour period in November. Cars were left abandoned and many side streets were impassable for weeks. Precipitation from the storm measured 2.03 inches, more precipitation than had ever been recorded in an entire month of November.
From the National Weather Service:
In 1874…strong west winds in Boulder along with a reported tornado produced 150 dollars in damage.
In 1913…a strong cold front produced sustained northeast winds to 35 mph with gusts as high as 38 mph on the 27th. Overnight snowfall totaled 5.8 inches. Temperatures plunged to a low of 17 degrees on the morning of the 28th after a high of 60 degrees on the 27th.
In 2009…a powerful early season storm brought heavy snow to the Front Range. The combination of a deep northeasterly upslope flow coupled with abundant moisture and lift with the developing storm system produced an extended period of moderate to heavy snowfall. The heavy wet snow accumulated on trees and resulted in broken branches and scattered electrical outages. Interstates 70 and 76 were closed east of Denver. Numerous other roads and highways were shut down. The Red Cross set up numerous emergency shelters for stranded travelers. The blowing snow at Denver International Airport forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights. Schools were also closed. In the foothills storm totals included: 46 inches… 3 miles southeast of Pinecliffe; 42 inches…3 miles southwest of conifer; 34 inches…3 miles north of Blackhawk; 30 inches at Aspen Springs and near Evergreen… 23 inches at Roxborough Park…and 20 inches…3 miles south-southeast of Morrison. Across the urban corridor storm totals included: 25 inches in Highlands Ranch; 21.5 inches near Louisville…20.5 inches in Broomfield… 20 inches at Lafayette…17.5 inches in Boulder…17 inches in Westminster…16.5 inches in Erie; 15.5 inches in Arvada and 5 miles west-northwest of Littleton…15 inches in Littleton…14 inches in Englewood…13.5 inches in Lakewood and 6 miles north of Thornton; 13.3 inches at Denver International Airport…11 inches…4 miles south of Denver; 10.5 inches…2 miles north of Cherry Hills Village and Niwot.
In 1917…post-frontal snowfall totaled 6.5 inches in the city. North winds sustained to 30 mph with gusts to 33 mph caused the temperature to plunge from a high of 58 degrees to a low of 9 degrees by midnight.
In 1967…winds gusted to 65 mph in downtown Boulder…causing minor damage. South winds gusted to 32 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1991…the first major snow of the season hit metro Denver as a cold arctic air mass moved over the area. Snowfall amounts across northeast Colorado ranged from 3 to 10 inches with 4.4 inches of snowfall recorded at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 22 mph. The low temperature dipped to 13 degrees.
In 1993…high winds buffeted the Front Range foothills. A wind gust to 83 mph was recorded atop Squaw Mountain…35 miles west of Denver…and a gust to 76 mph occurred near Rollinsville southwest of Boulder.
In 1993…an upper level disturbance combined with a moist upslope flow to bring heavy snow to portions of metro Denver. Snowfall amounts ranged from 5.4 inches at Stapleton International Airport to 14 inches in Boulder. New snowfall totaled 8 inches at Gross Reservoir in the foothills 5 miles southwest of Boulder. On the 28th…north winds gusted to 30 mph at Stapleton International Airport where the temperature climbed to only 25 degrees on the 29th…equaling the record low maximum for the date.
In 1971…a vigorous cold front plunged temperatures from a high of 70 degrees on the 27th to record low levels on the 29th and 30th. Snowfall totaled 3.1 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 23 mph. Some freezing drizzle also fell on the 28th. Record daily low maximum temperatures of 32 degrees on the 28th and 25 degrees on the 29th were established along with a daily record minimum of 13 degrees on the 30th.
In 1929…rain changed to snow on the afternoon of the 28th and continued until midday on the 30th followed by intermittent light snow which continued through the 31st. Snowfall over the four days totaled 16.2 inches in the city. Most of the snow…8.5 inches…fell on the 29th with 6.1 inches on the 30th. Temperatures hovered in 20′s during most of the storm.
In 1917…the all-time lowest recorded temperature in October…2 degrees below zero…occurred. This is also the earliest below zero reading of the season.
In 1939…the first measurable snow of the season totaled 5.6 inches in downtown Denver. Post-frontal northeast winds were sustained to 28 mph.
In 1961…heavy snowfall measured 6.0 inches at Stapleton Airport where northeast winds gusted to 30 mph.
In 1973…strong winds caused some damage to homes…stores… And utility lines along the foothills from metro Denver south.
In 1981…high winds buffeted the Front Range foothills with gusts to 55 mph in south Boulder.
In 1996…high winds gusting from 70 to around 100 mph blasted metro Denver. One man was killed when a strong wind gust overturned a pop-up camper onto him while he was trying to secure it. In addition…five people at the Rocky Flats Environmental Test Facility received minor injuries when several windshields were blown out of their cars…spraying glass onto the occupants. Several trees and power lines were also downed. Two 75-foot high pine trees were uprooted at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Arvada. Property damage from the windstorm ran into the millions of dollars. The highest recorded wind gusts included: 101 mph at Jefferson County Airport near Broomfield…100 mph in Golden Gate Canyon…96 mph in Coal Creek Canyon…and 87 mph at upper Table Mesa in Boulder. West-northwest winds gusted to 43 mph at Denver International Airport. Insured damage from the wind storm totaled 5.2 million dollars…the third most costly storm of record in Colorado at the time.
In 2003…strong Chinook winds developed in and near the Front Range foothills. Winds gusting to 80 mph in Boulder downed several trees and power lines…causing damage and triggering scattered electrical outages. The combination of strong winds…very dry fuel conditions…and downed power lines sparked two large wildfires. The overland wildfire in Boulder County…near Jamestown…consumed nearly 3900 acres and destroyed 12 structures…including homes…trailers…and out-buildings. Preliminary damage estimates for the value of lost property was nearly one million dollars. In Douglas County…the Cherokee Ranch wildfire consumed 1200 acres and destroyed 4 structures. The large smoke plumes from both fires were highly visible across metro Denver. West winds gusted to 45 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1905…heavy snowfall developed on the evening of the 29th and continued through the evening of the 30th. Snowfall totaled 11.0 inches in downtown Denver. Precipitation was 1.02 inches. Temperatures were generally in the 20′s.
In 1959…rain during most of the day on the 28th changed to snow early on the 29th and continued through most of the 30th. Heavy snowfall totaled 7.4 inches at Stapleton Airport. North-northeast winds gusted to 24 mph on the 30th. Some freezing drizzle also occurred on the 30th.
In 1981…4 to 8 inches of new snow were recorded in the foothills west of Denver. Snowfall totaled only 0.4 inch at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 25 mph.
In 1889…the first snowfall of the season totaled 14.0 inches over the three days in downtown Denver. Snowfall was 8.0 inches on the 29th and 5.0 inches on the 31st. North to northeast winds gusted to 30 mph on the 29th.
In 1950…a warm spell resulted in five daily temperature records. Record highs of 84…80…and 79 degrees occurred on the 29th…30th…and 31st…respectively. Low temperature of 49 degrees on the 30th was the record high minimum for the date.
In 1991…the second surge of cold arctic air in a matter of days plunged metro Denver into the deep freeze. While low temperatures remained above zero…high temperatures were only in the 20′s. Three temperature records were set: record lows of 7 degrees on the 30th and 10 degrees on the 31st and a record low maximum of only 21 degrees on the 30th. Snowfall was light with only 1.9 inches recorded at Stapleton International Airport where east winds gusted to 23 mph.
In 2002…snowfall totaled 4.3 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. North winds gusted to 32 mph on the 29th behind a cold front…which plunged temperatures well below seasonal normals. High temperatures of 18 degrees on the 30th and 19 degrees on the 31st were record low maximums for each date. Low temperatures dipped to 12 degrees on the 30th and 15 degrees on the 31st.
In 1972…heavy snowfall totaled 15.5 inches at Stapleton International Airport. However…the heaviest snow occurred on Halloween night when 7 inches fell on trick-or-treaters during a short 3-hour period. I-25 was closed south of Denver. North winds gusting to 29 mph caused some blowing snow on the 1st. The snow started late on the 29th and ended during the mid afternoon on the 1st. The greatest snow depth on the ground at Stapleton International Airport was 13 inches on the 1st.
In 1974…a rare thunderstorm for so late in October produced hail to 3/8 inch in diameter and 0.10 inch of rain at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1991…the high temperature warmed to only 21 degrees…the all-time record low maximum for the month of October. The same temperature also occurred on October 25…1997.
In 1997…high winds buffeted the foothills and adjacent areas of metro Denver. West winds gusted to 70 mph in Broomfield and to 40 mph at Denver International Airport. The strongest winds occurred in the mountains west of Denver and in the foothills north of Denver.
In 2001…high winds developed in the foothills. Peak wind gusts were measured to 74 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research on the mesa in Boulder and to 72 mph near Rollinsville. West winds gusting as high as 53 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 71 degrees at Denver International Airport.
In 1951…6.4 inches of snowfall were measured at Stapleton Airport.
In 1989…a Halloween storm dropped 3 to 6 inches of snow on metro Denver with the adjacent foothills receiving 5 to 10 inches. Snowfall totaled 4.5 inches at Stapleton International Airport…where north winds gusted to 31 mph on the 31st. Most of the snow fell on the evening of the 31st…but the storm left icy streets throughout metro Denver on the morning of the 1st…making it a “spooky” commute for many motorists.
In 2004…heavy snow fell in and near the foothills of Jefferson and Douglas counties. Storm total snowfall included: 14.5 inches in aspen park…10 inches at Roxborough State Park and near Sedalia…8 inches near Bergen Park…and 7 inches in Highlands Ranch. Snowfall totaled only 3.2 inches in the Denver Stapleton area. Post-frontal northeast winds gusted to 41 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1896…northwest Chinook winds sustained to 40 mph with gusts to 46 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 60 degrees in the city.
In 1973…wind gusts to 92 mph were recorded in Boulder. West winds gusted to 41 mph at Stapleton International Airport where the Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 70 degrees.
In 1989…a 39-year-old Lakewood man in a motorized wheelchair was found dead of exposure early in the morning after an overnight snowfall dumped 3 to 6 inches of snow across metro Denver.
In 1892…snowfall totaled 5.0 inches in downtown Denver. This was the only snow of the month.
In 1956…heavy snowfall totaled 7.0 inches at Stapleton Airport. The storm was accompanied by much blowing and drifting snow. North winds gusted to 47 mph.
In 1991…the storm system which hit the Front Range at the end of October finished the job during the start of November. Six inches of new snow were recorded at both Rollinsville and Morrison…while 2.9 inches of snow fell at Stapleton International Airport where northeast winds gusted to 17 mph. The temperature climbed to a high of only 19 degrees on the 2nd…setting a record low maximum for the date.
In 1995…a winter storm dropped 5 to 8 inches of snow in the Front Range foothills. The exception was at Golden Gate Canyon where a foot of new snow was measured. Icy roads…fog…and blowing snow along I-70 in the foothills west of Denver caused dozens of accidents. One man was killed when he lost control of his vehicle and was ejected when his truck hit a median and rolled over. At least 20 other accidents involved minor injuries. Only 1.0 inch of snow fell at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport where some freezing rain also fell.
In 1939…a trace of snow fell over downtown Denver. This snow…along with a trace of snow on the 9th…was the only snow of the month…ranking it…along with other months…the second least snowiest November on record.
In 1967…post-cold frontal heavy snowfall totaled 6.2 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 29 mph…briefly reducing the visibility to 1/8 mile.
In 1992…the first major snowfall of the season dumped 4.6 inches of snow at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 26 mph. Heavier amounts of snow fell in and near the foothills with 8 inches at conifer… Empire…and Bailey…6 inches at Rollinsville and Golden Gate Canyon…and 4 inches at Morrison and Wheat Ridge.
In 2011…a storm system brought another around of moderate to heavy snow to the region. Areas in and near the Front Range foothills and palmer divide were hit the hardest. Gusty winds also produced blizzard conditions at times along the palmer divide. In addition…the snow and blowing snow forced several school closures in Douglas and weld counties. Snow drifts…from 1 to 3 feet deep were reported in the northern portion of Douglas and Elbert counties. Storm totals included: 14 inches…4 miles south of Boulder and 12.5 miles northwest of Golden…13 inches… 5 miles east-southeast of Aspen Springs; 12 inches near Allenspark and Parker; 11 inches…6 miles southwest of Castle Rock…Genessee…9 miles north-northeast of Elizabeth…10 inches…10 miles south-southeast of Buckley AFB. At the national weather service in Boulder… 7.9 inches of snow was recorded…with 4.5 inches observed at Denver International Airport.
In 1974…heavy snowfall totaled 6.1 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 23 mph on the 3rd. Most of the snow fell on the 3rd. Maximum snow depth on the ground was 5 inches.
In 1990…a winter storm dumped 3 to 8 inches of heavy wet snow across metro Denver. In the foothills snow amounts ranged from 4 to 10 inches. Slushy snow and ice-covered roads snarled traffic. The snow…ice…and poor visibilities were blamed for numerous traffic accidents. Low clouds… Fog…and snow delayed air traffic at Stapleton International Airport for at least 90 minutes on the afternoon of the 2nd. Snowfall totaled 5.4 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 21 mph.
In 1946…a major snow storm dumped 30.4 inches of heavy snowfall downtown and 31.0 inches at Stapleton Airport. The winter storm closed schools and disrupted all forms of transportation in the city. The greatest depth of snow on the ground was 28 inches at the airport. The duration of the snowfall…from 4:22 am on the 2nd to 3:08 am on the 5th… A total of 70 hours and 46 minutes…is the second longest period of continuous precipitation on record and the second heaviest snowfall of record at the time in Denver. The 17.7 inches of snowfall on the 2nd and 3rd was the greatest 24- hour snowfall ever recorded during the month of November. Buses and street cars had a difficult time…and many cars were abandoned along roadsides and streets for several days. Secondary roads in rural areas were blocked for 2 to 3 weeks. Several buildings in the city collapsed or were damaged from the weight of the heavy snow. Football games were canceled. Livestock losses were high over eastern Colorado. The precipitation from this storm alone exceeded the greatest amount ever recorded in Denver during the entire month of November previously. The precipitation recorded downtown was 2.03 inches…and the previous record for the entire month of November was 1.95 inches in 1922. North winds were sustained to 26 mph on the 2nd.
In 1940…the longest period without snow…200 days…ended on this date with the first snow of the season…a trace…on November 4…1940. The last snow of the previous season… Also a trace…occurred on April 17…1940.
In 1959…a rare thunderstorm in November occurred around sunrise. Rainfall measured only 0.02 inch at Stapleton Airport.
In 1993…periodic high winds buffeted the foothills west of Denver. Wind gusts to 90 mph were recorded at Rollinsville in the foothills southwest of Boulder…while gusts to 85 mph were observed atop squaw mountain near Idaho Springs. West winds gusted to 37 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1996…a rare November thunderstorm during the early evening produced 0.10 inch of rain at Denver International Airport and only 0.06 inch of rain at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.
In 2005…strong winds developed over the urban corridor. While the damaging winds were in the Fort Collins area… High winds also developed to the south of Denver in Douglas County. Peak wind reports included 70 mph at Franktown…65 mph in Castle Rock…and 61 mph in Sedalia. West winds gusting as high as 47 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 69 degrees at Denver International Airport. Winds were strong and gusty for most of the daytime hours across metro Denver.
In 1994…a fast moving snow storm dumped 8 to 9 inches of snow on Boulder…Broomfield…and Lafayette. Snowfall totaled only 1.8 inches at Stapleton International Airport where on the 3rd east winds gusted to 20 mph and some freezing drizzle fell.