May 22 to May 28: This week in Denver weather history
If history is a teacher, our look back at this week in Denver weather history should provide great instruction on the dangers severe weather presents in our history. It was eight years ago this week that the infamous Windsor tornado tore through the area killing one man and damaging hundreds of homes.
From the National Weather Service:
In 1959…a three-day rain caused some flooding in metro Denver where rain totaled 1.68 inches at Stapleton Airport. Showers…accompanied by hail near Brighton…caused some damage to truck crops. Heavy snow in the foothills caused damage to power and telephone lines.
In 2002…lightning sparked a wildfire near Deckers. Extremely dry conditions and very strong winds the following day allowed the fire…known as the schoonover…to consume 3850 acres before it could be contained. Thirteen structures were destroyed…including 4 homes…resulting in 2.2 million dollars in damage.
In 1878…overnight heavy rains of cloudburst intensity on the Palmer Divide to the south of the city caused flash flooding on Cherry Creek in Denver…which resulted in 2 deaths. A wall of water swept through the city between 2:00 am and 3:00 am on the morning of the 22nd. The flood was so sudden and unexpected that homes along the creek in the city were submerged in water knee deep before the slumbering occupants knew anything about it. By daybreak the banks on both sides of the creek were lined by residents viewing the destruction caused by the raging waters in such a short time. Seven bridges across the creek were destroyed in the city. Damage to private and city property was estimated between 30 and 50 thousand dollars. Quite a number of cattle and sheep were killed along the reach of the creek. Only 0.01 inch of rain fell in the city on the 21st with a trace of rain on the 22nd. Flash flooding also occurred on Kiowa Creek near Bennett on the night of the 21st when the flood waters washed out the Kansas Pacific Railroad bridge. An east bound freight train plunged into the turbulent waters killing the three crewmen. The locomotive was completely buried in the sand and never found to this day!
In 1876…snow changed to heavy rain over the city…resulting in widespread flooding along Cherry Creek and the South Platte River…nearly as great as the flash flood of May 19-20…1864. However…damage was greater because the city had grown much larger and there were more bridges for the flood waters to destroy. Precipitation in the city totaled 6.70 inches from 10:00 pm on the 21st through 3:00 am on the 23rd. The greatest precipitation ever recorded in Denver in 24 hours…6.53 inches…occurred on the 21st and 22nd. Small buildings and bridges along Cherry Creek were washed away by the flood waters. Bridges over the South Platte River were damaged. The city irrigation ditch was damaged and rendered unfit for service. Strong winds at speeds of 30 to 40 mph drove the heavy rain through brick walls 12 to 16 inches thick. Many sheep and cattle were either killed by lightning or drowned…including some 100 head of cattle in Jefferson County alone. There was immense damage to railroad tracks…especially the Kansas Pacific line to the east of the city. The Colorado central suffered estimated damage of 10 to 15 thousand dollars. In addition…the heavy rain caused extensive flooding on soda and bear creeks in the foothills. Flooding along Boulder creek inundated farm and pasture land in the Boulder valley and damaged a few bridges. Rail travel had to be suspended in the area for several days.
In 1876…the most precipitation in Denver on any calendar day…6.50 inches…occurred.
In 1901…northeast winds were sustained to 41 mph with gusts to 45 mph.
In 1903…west winds were sustained to 45 mph with gusts to 55 mph from an apparent microburst…which produced a trace of rain.
In 1976…the public reported 3/4 inch diameter hail and wind gusts to 53 mph near Littleton.
In 1987…golf ball size hail fell in the Lorretto Heights area of south metro Denver.
In 1991…a tornado touched down briefly in Castle Rock. No injuries were reported.
In 1993…an off duty national weather service employee reported hail up to golf ball size just west of the city of Denver in Jefferson County. Thunderstorm wind gusts reached 58 mph at Jefferson County Airport near Broomfield and 33 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1996…a severe thunderstorm pummeled northwest and northern sections of metro Denver with large hail ranging in size from 3/4 to 2 inches in diameter. The cities of Arvada and Westminster were the hardest hit. The insurance industry estimated 60 million dollars in damage to homes and personal property and 62 million dollars in damage to automobiles…for a total of 122 million dollars in insured losses. This estimate also included the cities of Golden… Thornton…and wheat ridge. This was the fourth worst hailstorm to hit metro Denver in the last 10 years.
In 1998…large hail fell across north metro Denver. Hail as large as 1 1/2 inches in diameter was measured in Broomfield and Hudson. Hail to 1 1/4 inches fell in Roggen. Hail to 1 inch fell in Brighton…near Keenesburg… In Watkins…and in the city of Denver. Lightning ignited a house fire in Ft. Lupton. A warehouse worker in Denver was injured when he was knocked off a loading dock by a lightning bolt. The bolt skipped off a nearby radio tower and struck him in the arm. He was treated for numbness in his right arm and released.
In 1999…severe thunderstorms produced 7/8 inch diameter hail over the city of Denver…with one inch diameter hail reported in Aurora…and 3/4 inch hail near Watkins.
In 2006…a lightning strike sparked a fire and damaged the roof of a recreation center in Evergreen. The fire spread into some brush and consumed about one quarter acre before it was extinguished. Severe thunderstorms produced strong wind gusts across portions of metro Denver. Winds gusted to 72 mph in Georgetown…62 mph near Parker and Bennett… 60 mph in Castle Rock…and 59 mph in Longmont. The winds caused no reportable damage. A thunderstorm produced southwest wind gusts to 52 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 2008…a powerful tornado swept north-northwestward across Weld County…carving a path of destruction nearly 39 miles in length. The tornado…up to one-mile wide at times… Initially touched down northeast of Platteville and finally lifted 6 miles west-northwest of wellington. A tornado assessment in the aftermath of the tornado revealed extensive areas of damage. On the Enhanced Fujita Scale… There were pockets of ef3 damage near the Missile Silo Park campground and to businesses and a home in eastern Windsor. Farmers reported extensive damage to crops and irrigation equipment. There was one fatality and 78 injuries… Ranging from broken bones to minor cuts and lacerations. One man was killed when he tried to escape a trailer park in his motor home. Tractor trailers were flipped along U.S. Highway 85…and over 200 power poles were snapped or blown down. Approximately 60000 people were left without electricity. The tornado overturned 15 railroad cars and destroyed a lumber car. The tornado also flattened the main feedlot in Windsor and destroyed a dairy barn. Most of the 400 cows were killed in the tornado or destroyed later. The thunderstorm also produced hail up to the size of baseballs. Another tornado from a separate thunderstorm… Rated an ef1…briefly touched down near Dacono and destroyed 5 buildings. The tornado overturned a five-wheel trailer and injured a man sitting inside. Preliminary estimates from FEMA indicated 850 homes were damaged…and nearly 300 homes were significantly damaged or destroyed. The Poudre Valley Rural Electric Associated reported $1 million of damage to electric transmission lines. Privately insured damages totaled $147 million…making it the state’s 4th costliest disaster. Large hail up to 1 1/2 inches in diameter…was reported in the vicinities of Golden and Longmont.
In 2014…a severe thunderstorm Denver area produced nickel to quarter size hail in parts of west Denver and near Bennett. Locally heavy rainfall produced some minor street flooding in parts of metro Denver. The heavy rainfall produced localized flash flooding near Bennett. Rainfall totaled 0.54 inches at Denver International Airport.
In 1933…high winds and gales overnight caused considerable damage in and near the city. Much greenhouse glass was broken…which caused damage to sheltered plants. Great numbers of plants growing in the open were damaged or killed by wind-driven sand and soil. Fields were eroded by the wind and a few trees were uprooted. West winds were sustained to 38 mph with gusts as high as 65 mph in downtown Denver on the 22nd.
In 1916…southeast winds were sustained to 43 mph with gusts as high as 52 mph. The winds were strong for several hours during the afternoon.
In 1965…thunderstorm outflow wind gusts to 59 mph were recorded at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1987…slow moving thunderstorms bombarded metro Denver. One inch diameter hail was reported in south central Denver. Torrential rain caused widespread street flooding… Stalling traffic throughout the area. Rainfall totaled 2.10 inches in just 25 minutes in extreme southeast Aurora. Many other locations in Aurora and east Denver reported 1 to 1 1/2 inches of rain in about 30 minutes. Thunderstorm rainfall totaled 1.33 inches at Stapleton International Airport where 1/4 inch diameter hail was measured and north winds gusted to 40 mph. A man was slightly injured by lightning near Stapleton International Airport. Lightning also started a fire that severely damaged a house in Aurora.
In 1990…a microburst wind gust to 52 mph at Stapleton International Airport produced some blowing dust.
In 1991…thunderstorms moving from southwestern sections of metro Denver to the east of Denver produced large hail up to golf ball size. An estimated 5 thousand homes and 8 thousand cars received considerable damage. Early estimates placed damage costs around 60 million dollars. Three funnel clouds were also reported…two by personnel at Buckley Field and the other by a storm spotter. Heavy rain produced street flooding in Aurora where hail accumulated to a depth of 6 inches. As the storms moved to the east…golf ball size hail was reported at Strasburg.
In 1997…hail to 3/4 inch diameter fell in Broomfield.
In 2002…a very strong microburst near Strasburg swept a woman into a swirl of dirt and carried her about 150 feet. The woman was in an open field…corralling a yearling horse… When the incident occurred. Fortunately…she received only minor injuries.
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