January 31 to February 6: This week in Denver weather history
Winds can be a blessing and a curse this time of year. Chinook winds can help warm what is otherwise a normally chilly season. They can also cause a great deal of damage as they pick up speed as they come roaring across the Front Range. While we have been lucky thus far this year and not had damaging wind events, looking back at this week in Denver weather history one can’t help but think that maybe it is just a matter of time before they strike.
In 1888…a protracted warm spell lasted a week. Maximum temperatures ranged from 62 degrees on the 29th to an all time record high for the month of 76 degrees on the 27th. Daily record high temperatures of 76…69…and 71 occurred on the 27th…28th…and 30th respectively. Record high minimum temperatures of 47 and 34 occurred on the 26th and 27th.
In 1951…a major storm dumped 10.1 inches of snowfall at Stapleton Airport. Most of the snow…8.3 inches…fell on the 29th. Cold arctic air accompanied the snow. Several temperature records were set…including record low maximum temperatures of 4 on the 28th and 4 below zero on the 29th and record low temperatures of 12 below zero on the 29th and 24 below zero on the 31st. Temperatures were below zero for 45 consecutive hours.
In 1883…a major winter storm dumped 19.3 inches of snow on downtown Denver. Most of the snow…12.2 inches…fell on the 31st. This was the heaviest snowfall to hit the city in years. Temperatures plunged from a high of 52 degrees on the 29th to a low of 13 degrees on the 31st. Precipitation from the storm totaled 2.23 inches. The 1.22 inches of precipitation on the 31st was the greatest calendar day and 24 hour precipitation ever recorded in the city during the month of January.
In 1908…an apparent strong cold front plunged temperatures 45 degrees in 24 hours from 47 degrees at noon on the 30th to only 2 degrees at noon on the 31st. North winds were sustained to 30 mph on the 30th. Snowfall was only 0.8 inch on the 31st.
In 1965…a major storm dumped 10.4 inches of snow over metro Denver. After 5 inches of snow fell in Boulder… Strong Chinook winds developed…warming the temperature 25 degrees in 90 minutes. Wind gusts to 97 mph were recorded on Table Mountain in Boulder. Winds gusts to 53 mph were measured in downtown Boulder where some damage occurred. Minor wind damage also occurred in western suburbs of Denver. West winds gusted to 51 mph at Stapleton International Airport on the 31st.
In 2005…a winter storm brought heavy snow to the Front Range foothills. Storm totals included: 17 inches at Aspen Springs…13 inches 7 miles southwest of Boulder and at Lake Eldora…12.5 inches near Blackhawk…11.5 inches at Rollinsville and near Nederland…11 inches near Evergreen and Golden and at Gross Reservoir…and 10 inches at Cabin Creek. Lesser amounts of snow fell over the city. Only 1.9 inches of snow were measured overnight at Denver Stapleton. North winds gusted to 30 mph at Denver International Airport…where freezing fog during the early morning of the 30th reduced the surface visibility to as low as 1/8 mile. Light rainfall… Rare in January…totaled 0.06 inch at Denver Stapleton on the early morning of the 30th.
In 1985…a cold front on the 29th produced a protracted cold spell as arctic air remained entrenched across metro Denver. While the only daily temperature record set was a low maximum reading of 2 degrees on February 3rd…minimum temperatures plunged well below zero on 9 consecutive days. The coldest readings were 15 degrees below zero on January 31st and 14 degrees below zero on February 5th.
In 1876…hurricane force winds caused some damage in Boulder.
In 1951…the low temperature plunged to 24 degrees below zero.
In 1933…snowfall was 0.2 inch in downtown Denver. This was the only measurable snowfall of the month and resulted in 0.01 inch of melted snow…the only measurable precipitation of the month.
In 1964…high winds blew down a sidewalk cover where a building was under construction…injuring a young woman. Three men were injured when a brick wall at a construction site toppled on them. All were treated for face…leg…and neck injuries. A west-northwest wind gust to 47 mph was recorded at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1969…high winds struck Boulder with gusts to 115 mph recorded at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and 83 mph in downtown Boulder. Schools were closed because of danger from flying debris. Some damage and minor injuries occurred. Northwest winds gusted to 35 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1985…bitterly cold weather froze pipes and cars and forced some schools to close across metro Denver. Minimum temperatures dipped to as low as 15 below to 20 below zero across metro Denver. The low temperature was 15 below zero at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1963…high winds struck metro Denver. The strong Chinook winds reached 101 mph in Littleton…80 mph in Denver…and 90 mph at Rocky Flats. Among the hardest hit areas were Boulder where buildings under construction were blown down…porches and roofs blown off buildings…and power lines damaged. Damage totaled 100 thousand dollars in Boulder alone.
In other areas…utility lines were damaged and many signs…antennas…and road markers were blown down. At Stapleton Airport…west winds gusted to 44 mph on the 31st and 66 mph on the 1st. The Chinook winds warmed maximum temperatures to 65 degrees on the 31st and to 70 degrees on the 1st.
In 1963…warm weather that began with the strong Chinook winds on the 31st and 1st continued through the 8th. Maximum temperatures through the period ranged from 52 degrees on the 2nd to 76 degrees on the 5th…which was a new record high for that date.
In 1899…a protracted cold spell lasted almost two weeks. Low temperatures plunged below zero on all days but February 9th with a reading of 6 degrees. The coldest low temperature of 22 degrees below zero on February 6th was a record low for the date. Low temperatures of 20 degrees below zero occurred on both February 11th and 12th… But only the 11th remains as the record minimum for the date. High temperature of only 5 degrees below zero on February 11th was a record low maximum for the date. High temperatures climbed to only zero degrees on both February 2nd and 3rd…but were not records.
Intermittent light snow or flurries fell during the period. The most snowfall…2.0 inches…occurred on February 2nd.
In 1904…northwest winds were sustained to 51 mph with gusts to 60 mph. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 55 degrees.
In 1907…west winds sustained to 42 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 59 degrees.
In 1932…the temperature rose from a low of 8 degrees at 7:00 am to the high of 58 degrees at 2:30 pm. The biggest jump occurred from 16 degrees at 8:00 am to 42 degrees at 9:10 am.
In 1951…the lowest recorded temperature in February…25 degrees below zero…occurred. The same temperature was also reached on February 8…1936.
In 1963…west-southwest winds gusted to 66 mph at Stapleton Airport where the strong Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a maximum of 70 degrees.
In 1970…snowfall of 0.3 inch contained only 0.01 inch of melted snow. This was the only measurable snow and precipitation for the month…making it the driest and least snowiest February on record. Snowfall also was only 0.3 inch on February 22-23…1992…equaling the least snowiest February.
In 1980…high winds occurred in the foothills. Wind gusts to 75 mph were reported at Wondervu. Northwest winds gusted to 32 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1995…a short blast of early morning winds near the foothills produced a gust to 64 mph at Rocky Flats in northern Jefferson County. Winds gusting to 59 mph in Lakewood downed a few tree branches in residential areas. West winds gusted to 37 mph at Stapleton International Airport where the warm winds kept the temperature from falling below 43 degrees…setting a new record high minimum for the date. The temperature climbed to a non-record high of 63 degrees.
In 1934…light Chinook winds warmed temperatures to record levels on both days. Record maximum temperatures reached 73 degrees on the 1st and 74 degrees on the 2nd. West winds were sustained to 18 mph on the 1st.
In 1996…cold arctic air plunged temperatures below zero for more than 35 consecutive hours from late on the 1st until sunrise on the 3rd. The temperature warmed to only 1 degree below zero on the 2nd after a record low of 16 degrees below zero.
In 2011…a frigid arctic airmass settled into Front Range urban corridor. At Denver International Airport… Overnight low temperatures…from the 1st to the 3rd… Were 13 below zero…17 below zero and zero respectively. The icy temperatures caused pipes to crack and burst following the freeze. In Loveland…firefighters responded to more than a dozen water pipe breaks…most in fire sprinkler systems at businesses…apartments and assisted care facilities. At CU Earth Science Library in Boulder…more than 1000 books and several costumes for an upcoming production were damaged. At the county courts administration building in Jefferson County…a steady stream of water from a crack on the 5th floor… Went unnoticed on the 3rd and flooded all the floors of the administration wing overnight. As a result…much of the office equipment…furniture and carpet sustained water damage. A burst sprinkler line caused minor damage at the Platte Valley Medical Center in Brighton. The icy temperatures forced to closure of several school districts as well.
In 1985…the most bitter cold spell of the winter season brought sub-zero temperatures to metro Denver. Daily low temperature records were broken at Denver. The usual cold weather problems struck including stalled vehicles…jammed traffic lights…and frozen water and sewer lines. At Stapleton International Airport…the high temperature was only 2 degrees above zero on the 1st…setting a record low maximum for the date. Low temperatures reached 13 below zero on the 1st…12 below on the third…and 14 below on the 5th.
In 1989…one of the century’s worst doses of winter weather ravaged the entire state. Bitterly frigid weather moved into metro Denver on the 1st as snow buried many sections of the state.
In metro Denver where 3 to 6 inches of snow fell…blowing snow and resultant poor visibilities caused a 46-car pile-up on I-25 in the middle of the city on the 4th. During the period…2 to 3 hour delays were common at Stapleton International Airport where snowfall from the storm totaled 4.3 inches and northeast winds gusted to 30 mph on the 1st.
Intense cold accompanied the storm. Temperatures in Denver stayed below zero continuously for the best part of 3 days (3rd…4th…5th)…for a total of 69 hours. This is the fourth longest sub-zero period on record. Wind chill temperatures reached 50 degrees below zero. The mercury dipped to 24 degrees below zero on the 5th…setting a record for the date. This was the city’s coldest temperature in over 26 years. Low temperatures dipped below zero on 8 consecutive days (2nd-9th). High temperature of 9 degrees below zero on the 4th was a record low maximum for the date…as was the high of 5 degrees on the 5th. Extensive damage occurred when pipes and water lines froze and broke. Thousands of cars failed to start. On the 3rd…a 57-year-old woman died of hypothermia in an Arvada park. Eighteen high school students were treated for hypothermia after a 2-hour ride through Jefferson County in an unheated bus. At least 2 cases of frostbite were reported; there were undoubtedly many more.
In 1883…a protracted cold period occurred when low temperatures dipped below zero for 9 consecutive days. Low temperatures ranged from 22 degrees below zero on the 4th to 2 degrees below zero on the 1st and 6th. High temperatures ranged from 10 below zero on the 3rd to 23 on the 9th. Several temperature records were set that still stand today. Record lows of 18 below and 22 below zero occurred on the 3rd and 4th. Record low maximum readings of 2 below and 10 below zero occurred on the 2nd and 3rd. The high of only 10 below zero on the 3rd is the coldest maximum temperature ever recorded in Denver.
In 1890…west winds were sustained to 44 mph with an extreme velocity of 45 mph. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 66 degrees.
In 1970…high winds caused scattered damage along the foothills from Golden north. A garage in Boulder was demolished. Broken windows and roof damage were reported in Golden. Wind gusts from 60 to 100 mph were recorded in Boulder.
In 1990…a narrow band of heavy snow fell in the foothills southwest of Denver. Up to 6 inches piled up at Waterton Canyon with 5 inches around the town of Deermont…both along the South Platte River in Jefferson County. Snowfall was only 1.6 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 30 mph.
In 1995…the second morning in a row of strong winds raged in the foothills and adjacent lower elevations. Winds gusted between 70 and 85 mph in the foothills and 45 to 50 mph on the plains. A tree was blown onto high voltage power lines in a west Denver suburb. The fence that the wire landed on caught fire…but did no damage to the surrounding structures. A southwest Denver man was injured when a wind gust blew him and the front door he was holding off a porch. West winds gusted to 45 mph at Stapleton International Airport. The strongest winds occurred in Georgetown where a gust to 100 mph overturned a pick-up truck camper on I-70. The driver sustained only minor injuries.
In 2001…high winds developed briefly in the Front Range foothills. A spotter at Georgetown lake measured a peak wind gust to 90 mph.
In 2008…lightning struck a home in Englewood during an electrically charged snowstorm. A gas meter at the home was hit by lightning and burst into flames. The unusual thunderstorm produced a combination of snow and graupel. The graupel was up to one half inch in diameter. Total snow accumulations ranged from 1 to 4 inches across the southern Denver suburbs. Snowfall was only 0.6 inch at the former Stapleton International Airport.
In 1894…6.2 inches of heavy snowfall were measured over downtown Denver. East winds gusted to 25 mph on the 2nd.
In 1999…a powerful Chinook windstorm struck the foothills and adjacent plains. Several locations registered wind gusts in excess of 100 mph…including: 127 mph atop sugarloaf mountain…120 mph at Lafayette…119 mph at Wondervu…104 mph at coal creek…103 mph at the Rocky Flats Environmental Test Facility and 100 mph in Louisville. The damage associated with the windstorm was extensive. Thirty 70-foot-tall power poles were damaged… Including several that supported high voltage lines transmitting electricity directly from generating plants. The combination of downed power poles…power lines…and trees resulted in outages for about 10 thousand residents. In Lafayette…power poles were sheared off for a mile and a quarter. The power outages primarily affected residents in Boulder…Broomfield…Lafayette…Louisville… And Fort Lupton. In addition to the outages…high winds ripped apart several roofs in Boulder…including the roof of the Boulder County jail. At Jefferson County Airport… Several planes were overturned and some hangars damaged or destroyed. Damage to the airport alone was estimated at 100 thousand dollars. In southern Jefferson County… Localized ground blizzards reduced visibilities in blowing snow to less than 20 feet along U.S. Highway 285…resulting in several accidents. In Pine Junction a downed tree damaged a nearby residence…when it crashed onto the roof. In Bailey…a downed tree crushed a vehicle parked in the resident’s driveway. Total damage estimates for the windstorm reached 3 million dollars…making it the fourth costliest on record at the time in Colorado. Other peak wind gusts include: 97 mph at Boulder…93 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesa Lab in Boulder… 88 mph at Nederland…86 mph at Aspen Springs…and 83 mph at Blue Mountain near Coal Creek Canyon. West to northwest winds gusted as high as 46 mph at Denver International Airport.
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