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The Christmas Eve blizzard of 1982 – The best of Denver storms

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008 7:48am MST

As part of a special “Best of” series on Examiner.com, I recently penned an article about what was one of the most significant storms in Denver history – the 1982 Christmas Eve blizzard.  It is republished here as I thought everyone might like to check it out:

* You are viewing an old article – Our story on the Christmas Eve Blizzard of 1982 has been updated!  Click here to view the new version which includes some great photos.

Looking back through history, Denver and Colorado have had some extraordinary weather stories.  When looking to pick a “best” or most significant weather event, reaching far back into the history books one might choose the Georgetown blizzard of 1913 which dumped an astonishing 86 inches of snow or perhaps the Big Thompson Flood of 1976 which claimed 145 lives.  More recently, there were the holiday storms of 2006 or the Windsor tornadoes from 2007.  But, there is one storm that historically stands out not only because of its severity in terms of the weather but also because of the long lasting impact it caused in Denver and Colorado which is still being felt today – the Christmas Eve Blizzard of 1982.  For those of you that didn’t live in Colorado then or are too young to remember, a trip through the history books shows why this storm was so significant.  Those that do remember it have memories that will last a lifetime.

The weather setup for the Christmas Eve 1982 Blizzard.  A perfect storm with cold air from the north, warm moist air from the south and a forceful jet stream from the Pacific.

The weather setup for the Christmas Eve 1982 Blizzard. A perfect storm with cold air from the north, warm moist air from the south and a forceful jet stream from the Pacific.

As Christmas 1982 approached, forecasters were predicting a white Christmas several days beforehand but most were expecting a moderate snowfall of 6 inches.  Two days before Christmas Eve though, the picture began to change.  On the 22nd a Pacific cold front came ashore in California bringing severe rain, high surf and even hurricane force winds.  As it moved east over higher terrain, it dumped 2 feet of snow in the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City.

At about that same time, jet stream winds were forming a trough of low pressure over the southeastern plains of Colorado.  The counterclockwise motion of the trough began to pull moist air into the state.  Further east Kansas and Oklahoma experienced severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes.  The winds set the stage for strong upslope conditions along the Front Range.

Rain changed to snow on the plains and shortly before midnight on the 23rd, a full blown blizzard had developed.  Denver woke to snow on the ground the morning of Christmas Eve but the storm was just getting started.  Snowfall rates of 2 – 3 inches per hour were the norm during the day and winds screamed at 50mph causing wind chill temperatures to plummet to as low as -35 degrees.  As conditions continued to deteriorate throughout the day, the gravity of the situation began to be realized.

The aftermath - Six foot snow drifts were not unusual.  This image was taken in Northglenn the day after the blizzard.

The aftermath – Six foot snow drifts were not unusual. This image was taken in Northglenn the day after the blizzard.

Stapleton International Airport was forced closed at 9:30am on the 24th and remained closed for 33 hours and only limited operations were possible for days following the storm.  Thousands of travelers were left stranded in the airport and forced to spend their white Christmas on the concourses of the facility.  Last minute Christmas shoppers quickly found themselves wishing they hadn’t procrastinated.  Malls and shopping centers became refugee centers as the city shut down and became impassible.  Mall workers were unable to go anywhere so the mall restaurants stayed open providing food for those who were stuck.  For the first time in history the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News were unable to publish their newspapers.

4 – 10 foot snowdrifts covered many areas of the city, built by the extreme winds and snow.  Every mode of transportation was paralyzed and every highway into and out of the city of Denver was closed.  The snow totals for the storm were nothing short of incredible.  Golden Gate Canyon to the west of the city received 48 inches, Thornton 34 inches, Littleton 29 inches and Denver had 25 inches.  Denver’s 24 hour total was a record which still stands to this day.  Colorado’s bizarre weather can truly be seen also when looking at the snow total for Greeley – a mere 45 miles north of Denver – where only 1 inch of snow fell!

The aftermath of the storm took weeks to recover from and the toll was astounding.  Three people died as a direct result of the storm and there were many injuries from frostbite and falls.  Roofs collapsed across the city striking greenhouses especially hard whose damage alone was estimated at $5 million.  Fences and trees were downed and power outages were common.  The local economy took a tremendous hit as the second busiest shopping day of the year was a bust – it is estimated that area businesses lost $500 million in holiday sales.

The removal of that much snow proved to be a huge effort and is probably what made this storm historic as it brought an end to a political era in Denver and in some ways, it could almost be said to have indirectly brought about the construction of Denver International Airport.

Bill McNichols was the mayor of Denver at the time and was in his 15th year leading the city.  He was considered relatively popular at the time but the city’s handling of snow removal is thought to have directly led to his defeat in the mayoral elections the following May.  $7 million was spent across the metro area on snow removal; $3 million in Denver alone.  However, Denver’s 45 snowplows simply weren’t enough to handle the task and the city was slow to even clear major streets.

The after math - snow made streets impassable.  This image was taken in Northglenn the day after the blizzard.

The after math – snow made streets impassable. This image was taken in Northglenn the day after the blizzard.

To make matters worse, the misery of the storm was only prolonged by cold weather in late December and through January which left snow on the ground for 48 consecutive days – the third longest period on record.  The snow could easily have lasted longer except that perhaps mercifully, no significant snow fell for two months after the blizzard.

Heading into the May elections the next year, the calamitous storm was fresh in voters’ minds as they went to the polls and a new era in Denver politics began when a young man half the age of his predecessor was elected to office – Federico Pena.  Mayor Pena’s election brought about the end of the Bill McNichols’ era in Denver politics and Pena became the driving force behind the construction of Denver International Airport.  For better or worse, if it weren’t for the Christmas Eve Blizzard of 1982, Federico Pena may never have been elected and we may still be flying out of Stapleton International Airport.

Due to the timing of the blizzard coming on Christmas Eve, the sheer amount of snowfall, the impact on the city at the time and for the longlasting political implications, the Christmas Eve Blizzard of 1982 is number one on my list of Denver’s “best” storms.

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56 Responses to “The Christmas Eve blizzard of 1982 – The best of Denver storms”

  1. John McNamara Says:

    Wow! Thanks for the walk down memory lane. That was truly one of the most extraordinary storms to have ever hit Denver for any number of reasons. I still remember it being two days before the grocery stores could even open back up.

  2. Sarah Hatch Says:

    From the sounds of it, I for one am glad I wasn’t there! :-)

  3. Jennifer Says:

    HOly cow – what a trip down memory lane. My dad ended up walking home from Stapleton that Christmas morning (we lived in Thornton) after his jeep got stuck in a snowdrift the night before and he spent the night on a stranger’s couch. We couldn’t open gifts until he got home at noon – my mom was worried sick.

  4. Thornton Weather Says:

    Yikes! That’s a long walk! My dad got stuck at I-25 and 104th Christmas Eve and hitched a ride the rest of the way home with a Colorado State Trooper! :-)

  5. Gina Says:

    Oh yeah, I remember that one! My apartment faced Stapleton Airport and on Christmas morning, you could see a few people trying to get on with Christmas by towing sleds full of gifts. The whole city was stranded! Christmas eve, my roommates and I trekked over to a nearby grocery store which was four miles out, and we were lucky to get a ride in the back of a 4×4 pick up on our trek back to our apartment. We had what we needed, a free show looking out the tenth story building, spirits, good food and great company. I had moved into Denver just four months prior. 😉 Great memories – good times & great vibrations!

  6. Let It Snow! « Candy Says:

    […] Christmas Eve Blizzard of 1982 in Denver, Colorado changed the city in so many ways that are still felt to this day. If the blizzard […]

  7. Pat, Daughter and Tonsils Says:

    It was Christmas Eve 1982,Denver was hit with a one if not THE worst snowstorms and Margie was in the hospital having her tonsils taken out. No one was allowed to drive on the streets of Denver, only emergency vehicles. There was no way that our Margie was not going to be home for Christmas and I drove our 1967 Chevrolet 283 V8 to Porter Hospital to get her home! I followed a snow plow to the hospital, drove her home with a huge stuffed Bunny Rabbit in the back seat, barely made it into our driveway “sideways” at 320 S. Dale Court.” Picked her up in my arms (she was 15 years old!) and set her down in front of the the Christmas tree………….It’s nice to have her home once more again today 2008!

  8. December 21 - 27 - This week in Denver weather history | Thornton and Denver Weather News and Commentary Says:

    […] Our look back in Denver weather history for Christmas week includes a number of very notable events.  One is the two year anniversary of the Holiday Blizzard of 2006.  Most notably though is the 26th anniversary of the Christmas Eve Blizzard of 1982.  More information on these and other significant events is below.  For more on the Christmas Eve Blizzard of 1982, be sure to check out an article we wrote about it. […]

  9. Katie Says:

    My Dad, my brother and I. My sister’s friend was waiting for my sister, but my sister was stuck at her boyfriend’s house. My older brother could not even get through Washington Park to plow the driveway. It was the best Christmas of my life!

  10. Pam Says:

    We were headed from Savannah to Vail for our Christmas holiday. Some of our friends were stuck in the Atlanta airport, but for some reason our particular flight was given the okay to go. I was told that it was the first flight in since the closing. As we started to land my mother asked why there were so many ambulances and firetrucks by the runway. I guess they didn’t think we’d make it. After our flight landed they decided that it was not safe enough and closed the airport again! Unable to leave, we spent the night on luggage carousels next to people trying to fly out of Denver who had been stuck there for days. My friend still has her “I Survived the Denver Blizzard of ’82” t-shirt!

  11. Tony Says:

    I love these stories – they are all great. It is amazing how one single weather event can affect the lives of so many from literally across the country.

  12. dan haug Says:

    Ugh… I was living in Wichita, as a young, sprite 21-yr old, and wanted to drive across eastern colo to my folks for xmas that morning — mom said “Stay!” I said — what, a few snow flakes? I got stuck in eastern colorado on hwy 94, spent a miserable and very cold 24 hrs in my car awaiting rescue. Spent the next two days at a very nice farm while the plows cleared the hwy. I think it was about 15 of us motorists stranded at the farm house. Very nice family — used to us dumb motorists ignoring the forecasters. Never again. I’m lucky to be alive, and learned my lesson about colo blizzards…

  13. bihl Says:

    At that time, we lived outside of Morrison, just to the east along Bear Creek. C-470 actually pretty much goes over where our house was, now. We had stocked up for Christmas, anyway, and toughed it out. We were on the south side of Bear Creek and you had to cross a little wooden bridge over Bear Creek to get to the highway. It was at least 4/5 days before we could even get a vehicle out to the road and we had a 4 wheel drive. All in all, it was fun times for the family.

  14. Debbie Says:

    I was 23 years old and living in an apt. in Aurora. I was stranded and couldn’t make it to my parents house only a few miles away for Christmas but luckily my friend came to get me on horseback and I spent Christmas with her family. I was flying to California the day after Christmas to see my sister and then meet up with my boyfriend (now my husband of 22 years) who was visiting his parents nearby. My dad told me to walk to Parker Road and he’d be there to pick me up (I had a sprained ankle at the time). Sure enough he masterfully dodged stranded cars and RTD buses all over town but got me to Stapleton Airport. My flight was one of the first to leave after they reopened the airport.

  15. StevenW Says:

    Better late then never,.. I was 17 and could walk out of my second story bedroom window straight on to the snow. The front door to the house was buried, along with all the trees and bushes in the yard. It’s not technically accurate that it shut the city down for 2 days, it was more like 4 or 5 before plows made it out to the tech center and the suburbs of Englewood where we lived. It is true that I’ll remember it for the rest of my life and in fact I just googled it because of those memories..

  16. Jason Says:

    I remember my grandfather and I got stuck on bowles and he carried me on his shoulders to his house 2 miles away… We didn’t get his truck out for like 3 days after that….

  17. Beth Says:

    I was only 8 yrs old, but I distinctly recall the snow drifts in our yard being tall enough to dig tunnels through! My brother and sister and I spent whole days playing in all that snow. Also, our dog, who was never allowed in the house, got to spend several days inside with us, which we kids thought was the best thing, ever.

  18. Bill Jones Says:

    What you fail to mention is that it snowed on Primary Election Day, May 13 – what a fluke! That snow on the day of the Primary in May is what reminded everyone of the blizzard and the city’s poor response to it. If it hadn’t snowed in May, McNichols might have survived the primary and won the election.

  19. Mary Says:

    I remember this blizzard well. The day before, they were predicting 4 inches of snow. I’d stayed up till around midnight wrapping gifts and looked out to see the snow flakes start falling…we were going to have a white Christmas. When I awoke the next morning, there was already 2 feet of snow on the ground and it was coming down fast and furious. By the time it ended, we had drifts to our roof and my husband and young daughter built a tunnel out the front door. Our cocker spaniel puppy could walk right over the chain link fence. There were people on dog sleds and people were friendly and helping each other get cars out of snowbanks. The grocery store on Christmas Eve was insane, with customers waiting in the longest lines I have ever seen. Good times!

  20. Rick Says:

    I was in high school (Denver East) at the time, and I still remember this storm. We lived at 2nd Ave N. and Colorado. I recall trying to keep my Mom’s car, which was parked on the street, shoveled out and cleared because we wanted to go last minute shopping later that evening. But by sunset, the snowfall was too much for me to keep up with – by the time I got the front of the car shoveled out, the back of the car would be buried up to the bumpers, and vice versa. So I gave up and we stayed home, and watched the snow fall. When I awoke the next morning, the 10′ wide alley between our house and the neighbor’s house was FILLED with snow, to a height of 10 feet. We couldn’t open the side door there. Snow was drifted up on the East side of the house to even higher, covering the windows there, as well. On the west side, the snow was still at least 4′ deep, and I managed to shovel a path to the curb, and turned and looked at the roof… and that’s when I got scared. There was 4 or more feet of snow on the roof, also, and it looked heavy. Two weeks later, we were still using RTD buses to get everywhere, because the snow had frozen to ice, and someone (McNichols? Pena?) had decided to use trash trucks to “clear” the residential streets, but didn’t consider that their wheelbase is a good foot or two wider than a passenger car’s. So the result was 2′ deep frozen ruts that were so far apart it actually made the streets completely impassable to normal traffic. Fortunately, there was a small food market within walking distance or we might have starved. I live in So California now, but still remember that day… and also the -20 degree deep freeze the following winter.

  21. Brian Says:

    i was just a kid. this was our last Christmas in denver and i remember snow so high we could make tunnels in our horseshoe appartment complex. we lived near the capital building and i remember we had to go to the whitespot for Christmas dinner on foot because roads were closed

  22. Dan Says:

    I remember the blizzard because I tried to dig out four houses in my neighborhood alone.

  23. Suz the Q Says:

    A Christmas Eve forever remembered! I was 30 and living in Aurora, Co. When I heard about the storm hitting Salt Lake first, and upon leaving work on the 23rd, I shopped at King’s Soopers and stocked up! It was 2wks before I went back to work which was 3 miles away. People travelled on snow mobiles and cross-country skis. My ski bibs and snow boots came in handy when braving all that vast wintery white. Oh, by the way; I’m 5’5″ and the snow was pass my waist! Thank you for the memory-lane article!

  24. Moe Bertrand Says:

    I was just 18 at the time, married and a young Airman in the USAF. My wife and I made a last-minute trip to the In-Laws in Denver and we arrived at Stapleton Airport the evening of the 23rd…a Thursday. Our intention was to fly back to California on the 26th. It was all good, except that I was away from my duty station without being on official leave. Well, the snowstorm hit and when departure day arrived, the skies were blue, the snow was high, and Stapleton was open…barely. Luckily, our fight was operating, but it was very late coming in from D.C. Once the flight arrived we boarded but we sat, and sat, and sat. We finally departed several hours late and it was all we could do to run from United to Wings West to make our commuter connection to Santa Maria. We finally made it home but I tell you what, December 26th 1982 was a pretty stressful day for me as I’m sure it was for a lot of other folks.

  25. Most snow you have ever experienced - CycloneFanatic Says:

    […] permalink I was a student at ISU and flew home to Denver (Westminster) and got this. 34" of snow in Thornton which is right by Westminster. The only time I saw snowmobiles go down our city streets. Our cars were totally gone from site and the chain link fences in our back yard the same. But it was Denver so even that much snow can melt in a hurry. The Christmas Eve blizzard of 1982 – The best of Denver storms | Thornton and Denver Weather N… […]

  26. Charlene Says:

    Yea, I remember that day. Not many of us will forget it. I was 18 at the time.
    I had woke up that morning, feeling unwell. There was snow on the ground, but not enough to really worry. By noon, I was taken to a doctor, and was told I had strep throat.
    Dandy. Christmas Eve and day I would be sick.
    By the time my father and I got home, the weather began to pick up, and snow was flying everywhere. Needless to say, no one dared to venture out the rest of the night. By Christmas morning, we had a wall of white at the back door.
    We lived right on 20th ave and Harlan and no plows were seen for days. Was eerily quiet.

  27. Penny Says:

    I was 21 back then and I will never forget that day. I was supposed to go to work and actually tried to drive there but only made it a few blocks. As I was walking back to my apartment, which was only a block from the Stapleton airport fence in Aurora, I watched a police officer as his car also became stuck. Later that day I put my two year old son in a baby backpack and walked to the grocery store which was a few blocks away. There were two Public buses stranded across the street from the store, with passengers in them. They were there for several hours after the sun went down but eventually ended up spending the night in the grocery store. Christmas day some of the stores that were supposed to be closed were open, I guess because everyone was stranded.

  28. Jonathon Says:

    I was 8 yrs old when this storm hit. We lived in Aurora and it took a week for the plows to get to our street. Because of this storm my Parents moved us to Tucson, AZ the following summer. I remember the drifts going all the way to the roof line.

  29. sam Says:

    Memory Lane ! My wife and had moved to Denver in 1979 from west Texas. We had a baby daughter just barely 1 year old and had just moved into a new 3 bedroom house in the suburb of Aurora. My Mother, Father, and youngest brother had driven up from Texas and brought along my 7 year old son from a previous marriage to visit us in Denver for the first time. They arrived on December 22nd. My wife and I barely made it home from work on the 23rd. The middle brother, who had followed me to Denver and was living with his girlfriend and her young son there, was trying to make it to our house on Christmas Eve too and their car got high-centered about a mile away. They almost froze to death walking to our house through waist deep snow and the sub-zero wind chill. We had to put them in a luke-warm shower and slowly bring their body temps back to normal. We had 10 people snowed into that little house for 4-5 days before we could shovel our way out. It took us an entire day working in shifts just to shovel the driveway. We also built snow caves for the kids to play in. By the end of the 5 days we had extreme cases of cabin fever and were tired of not being able to go anywhere without stumbling over someone else ! It is a wonder we didn’t kill each other. We still talk about that storm and the memories. The stories seem a lot funnier now than it really felt at the time.

  30. Theresa Says:

    Yes it brings back memories, I was expecting my 3rd child and I was staying with my Grandma. Christmas was white and beautiful, my daughter wasn’t born until December 27th a few days after the snow hit. There was still so much snow I had to get to the hospital in an ambulance. To this day we accredit Faith’s silliness to being born in the year of the blizzard.

  31. richard Says:

    CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS and GUESS what only a few miles to the NORTH in Fort Collins Colorado the home of the CSU Rams

    guess how much snow fell up their????>>>>>>

    2 I mean 2………………………

    inches ,yes,, you heard correct, ONLY two inches of the white STUFF!!!!

  32. Steve C Says:

    Did a google search of this just to see what might be published of a day I’ll never forget.

    My family had gone skiing at Copper Mtn the day or two before this, and on this day we were driving back to Denver in our Mercedes 300D. Well, it was just a matter of time before the car got stuck in major streets because the snow was piling up fast. My family, and I was 9 years old, had to walk I’m guessing 2-3 miles back to our home, but luckily we had snow clothes. I remember the snow tunnels me and my brother dug throughout our yard, in 5 foot drifts.

  33. Don K. Says:

    Arrived for an early dinner at Willshire Inn near Hampden and Colorado Blvd. When we arrived it had been snowing but only about 4-6 inches on the ground. When we left around 5pm, the car was under more than a foot of snow. We managed to drive north on Colorado Blvd heading toward City Park. We only managed to get to 1st avenue and could not navigate the hill up Colorado Blvd. We had to ditch the car on a side street. We hiked nearly two hours back up to our apartment off of 8th and Colorado Blvd. Snow was up to our waist in many areas. Had to pull the car out of a drift with a tow truck 5 days later.

  34. Sue Says:

    Just saw the link to this as Christmas 2010 approaches. I worked 3rd shift at the time in Boulder and had hung out with a few friends after getting off work 12/24 morning. When we headed home, I was unable to get my car through the foot or so of snow on the roads – this was before it got really bad. My boss came down from Longmont with his 4-wheel drive to take another employee and I home to Northglenn and Denver. The exit from 36 to 120th in Broomfield was completely clogged with vehicles mired in the snow, etc. We eventually made our way off on 88th, across 84th, then up Federal to 104th and Federal. Turning east on 104th, we encountered snow drifts 6 to 8′ high across the road, with all kinds of vehicles stuck in them. After high-centering his truck in the parking lot trying to go around the drifts, we ended up walking to the newly opened King Soopers on 104th and Federal. Employees were waiting at the door with hot chocolate, coffee and treats from their employee Christmas party. Sodden coats, boots and clothing were dried out in the bakery while people waited, wearing the white bakery coats…ended up sleeping on the checkout in Aisle 7(after calling my children at home about a mile and a half away). It was a Christmas to remember….

  35. TP Says:

    At the time of this storm, we lived in Golden. We had 42 inches of snow but, what sticks out to me this day is the hour of thunder and lightning during the blizzard. The sky lit up with an orange glow when the lightning hit. Just bizarre! Also, when we woke up Christmas morning, the sky was the most beautiful blue you’ve ever seen.

  36. chuck c Says:

    I was 14,remember being woke up by the crash of the patio cover,coming down and blocking the back door.I shoveled for days it seemed and sore for weeks.I tell my wife who is from South Dakota about that storm,she laughs and calls us in Denver wimps.

  37. John L Says:

    I remember as my wife drove to work at 6 a.m from our home in Lakewood the morning of December 24, thinking “that’s a lot of snow.” By 3 p.m. my wife couldn’t get out of the parking lot where she worked. We had a newborn baby and I wasn’t going to spend Christmas alone with the baby without my wife. So at 5 p.m. I got a neighbor to watch the baby and headed out to get her. A few blocks from home I slid out in a snow bank during whiteout conditions. So I paid a guy in a four-wheel with chains $30 to go and get my wife. On Christmas we invited our neighbors to wade through the 6-foot drifts on the street to joins us for dinner, which they did. No one went anywhere for days.

  38. Susan McDonald Geissler Says:

    I am in Argentina this year for Christmas and New Years. What a trip to remember back to the Christmas of 1982 in Denver. I was born in 1951 at St Joe’s in Denver and was raised in Park Hill. from 1969 when I left for college until fall of 1982 I lived in the Pacific Northwest. Christmas Eve was beautiful with snow piling each hour.We lived in Congress park with our 4 year old daughter Sarah.
    My husband had prepared ahead for a great feast on Christmas Day, of course not knowing what was to come. Our neighbor had not shopped and set out on foot around 10am, completely unaware that it would take over 10hours to return with presents for the kids and food for Christmas.

    The quite in the streets on Christmas day was one of the most peaceful experiences I have ever had. It was joyous too with neighbors congregating outside, sharing mulled wine and hot chocolate – so festive!

    Incredibly extended family made it in, primarily from Park Hill, for dinner. Most awesome was that my mother, a nearly retired English professor, hitchhiked with one of my sibs! My Dad and other sibs and friends walked in. Everyone spent the night with us. What a fabulous time we had.

    The romance wore off a couple of days later when we had to return to work. It was I commuted to Craig Hospital, ordinarily 15 minutes away and it took at times nearly two hours to get there. Huge snow mounds and ice slabs had to be removed along the way. A common scene was observing a bus driver getting out to remove a slab of dirty ice that his bus could not pass. As traffic approached the barriers there was an unspoken question in each driver’s mind – who will get out to clear this one? Always someone did – each took his turn without ever discussing. It was a silent negotiation of graciousness and responsiveness. Very impressive.

    Despite the inconvenience of the prolonged traffic problem, the Christmas of 1982 will long be remembered for it community it created in neighborhoods and roadways. I’m so glad I was part of it.

  39. dean Says:

    from florida live in and love colorado had a 4 foot fence buried in snow next day we took pics in shorts @ t shirts to send to fla

  40. Linda Moscato Says:

    I am now living in Florida, but I worked for Thornton PD when this storm hit. Glad I took vacation at that time. Our officers had to walk to help people. Some used their own four wheel drive vehicles. After the storm pot holes of ice were so deep they could take out the front end of your car. Parking lots became skating rinks. T shirts read “I survived the storm of 1982”. Everything came to a screeching halt as the wind blew continuously bringing in more snow. My elk hound Bear had to make a path for our sheltie Kelly outside. I will never forget this experience.

  41. Linda Moscato Says:

    I forgot to add my daughter Anna was in Littleton visiting her aunt, so we celebrated two Christmas twice as it was over a week before a friend could bring her home. One Christmas with my son Dean and one with Anna after the storm.

  42. Buda Says:

    We went to visit my brothers for Christmas. We were staying at my newly married brother’s tiny, little, two bedroom apartment with 7 people. A friend came from the mountains and said, “get prepared we are going to get it!”. We danced under the street lights so happy for a white Christmas! But the snow never stopped! We felt bad for the nurses and doctors that couldn’t be relieved. We spoke with people that were going to help in the four wheel drives. Being adventurous, we had to see. We got to the end of the street and it was a ghost town. We started sliding so we went back home to batton down the hatches to what seemed like a storm that would never end! We ended up with cabin fever, fighting, crying, the car was buried under a 7 ft snow drift. We finally ventured home. The road was so icy and there was a grave yard of half buried semis and cars on the sides. We barely said a word back to Eastern Nebraska. Creeping along. It was so scary yet we were thankful we survived. Final note, I moved to Texas!

  43. Christy Says:

    My Dad moved us to Chicago, IL the fall of 1982. We all had been natives to Denver at that point. He was determined we would not be away from family that year so we treked the 1000 plus miles to be in Denver. We arrived on the 22nd. When we woke up on the morning of the 24th we could not see out the windows. The drifts had met the snow coming off the ranch roof making the house like an igloo. We shoveled 3 feet of snow just to be able to use the snowblower. Determined again to be with family we piled 7 of us and the dog into a 1976 Jeep Wagoneer and drove from Lakewood(6th and Wadsworth) to Denver(Colo Blvd. and Mississippi). We made it through drifts taller than the car. It was the most fun I have ever had in snow.

  44. Gary Says:

    I had been in Denver on and off from 1968. I generally found the winters mild( compared to Michigan winters). But the storm of 82 surprised me. The city wasn’t buried long due to the beautiful Colorado sunshine. But that morning I was having flash backs to great lakes winters I had survived.

  45. Lynn Says:

    As many have shared, I got stuck at work Christmas Eve at the North Valley mall (84th and I-25). I was the General Manager of the May D&F department store there. My car was buried in the parking lot. I hitch hiked home with 3 different rides and managed to get home by 8pm. The next morning my wife’s family cross country skied to our house and spent the weekend. It was the most memorable Christmas ever.

  46. Faith Says:

    I remember it well (with a bit of horror trembling through my bones). My brother was head of Engineering at Mercy Hospital in Denver. He spent many hours driving around town in his beefed-up/lifted 4WD Ford Eagle Truck bringing nurses into work for their shifts. Afterward, he came to get me in Englewood as my Ford Pinto (yes Pinto!) was completely buried under snow. We proceeded to drive to his house in southeast Aurora where we were to spend Christmas Eve with the family. Every entrance into Aurora was blocked by stranded vehicles. The last entrancy he attempted finally got him as well and the Ford beast was stuck too! We began to walk in the blizzard, through 3 and 4 feet of snow and terrible blowing blizzard conditions. Not long my feet were numb. Thank God an off-duty Aurora police officer came along and picked us up in his Jeep and delivered us to the end of the street where my brother lived. I barely escaped frostbite–my brother’s wife was a surgical nurse and began treating my feet as soon as we arrived home. Definitely the most memorable (in a bad sort of way)storm I’ve ever experienced and I am a native of Denver!

  47. Noreen Says:

    I was freaking out! My wedding was set for New Year’s Eve in Arvada. My fiance and I were stuck in Colorado Springs. Things got plowed enough and we got through the wedding:)

    29 years!!

  48. CHAD LOSETH Says:

    I was 11 and out of town that christmas. Our friends were dog sitting and the got out. She was found on christmas day behind a snow drift next to a light pole in Del-Mar park Still alive and doing fine. Always wanted to get her an “I survived the blizzard of 82” t-shirt.

  49. Rick L Says:

    I was working for Frontier Airlines at that time and had to reopen the customer service counter at the airport. What a mess,My front door to my house was completely buried, I miss that crazy weather and Colorado in general.

  50. Michelle Cline Says:

    I sure do remember The Blizzard of ’82 quite well. I was 19 at the time and living on 1560 South Dale Court, off of West Florida Avenue. I recall watching the snow fall from the living room that day and thought to myself we were in for a nice white Christmas, with the outside lights making tiny rainbows against the the light moisture of each snowflake. However, little did anyone know that all these snowflakes would become a nightmare for Denver. We had, as everyone did, a difficult time getting around. But living where we did, there was a 7-11 on the corner of West Florida and South Federal and a liquor not too far away. As the hours wore on, the snow was getting heavier and started to accumulate faster on the streets, cars and yards around our neighborhood. Sometimes, it was hard to see across the houses across the street because of the blowing snow. However, little did anyone in Denver knew that this white Christmas delight would become known as The Blizzard of ’82. The storm went on for 2 or 3 days without let up. After it was over, our nieghborhood looked as if a huge, heavy blanket was draped over homes and cars and my entire city. Yes, snow a beautiful sight to behold but back in ’82, it was beginning to not be so beautiful. If I recall correctly, the snow started to melt sometime in mid-January into February maybe into March of the new year of 1983. Then, come November of 1983, Denver received other blizzard called The Thanksgiving Blizzard of ’83. This blizzard was almost like it’s twin in ’82, with less of a punch. Denver didn’t have a significant blizzard until the September Blizzard of ’97, The Blizzard of 2003 and the triple threat of The Blizzard of 2006. Snow is just Mother Nature’s way of providing a beautiful show for us to enjoy with wonder awe.
    Colorado and Denver are magnificent with snow, but when the snow covers the highest peaks of our Rocky Moutains, a person feels closer to Heaven.

  51. Mark Holland Says:

    Got caught in Hay KS as the storm passed thru…was on my way to Denver from North Carolina to start my job with Piedmont Airlines. Made my date of employment easy to remember 1/1/83…..and boy did they need help!!

  52. Jim Kaplan Says:

    @Michelle Cline…The storm was fierce but quick. The snow began shortly before midnight on Christmas Eve and lasted just a little over 24 hours. Christmas Day dawned clear but VERY white. The whole impact would have been at least somewhat less on Denver at least if the mayor had not ignored the weather forecasts and given the street crews the holiday off. This was one storm that “solar snow removal” was not going to work on.

  53. gerald flaherty Says:

    Yes I remember it my son was a student at CSU he was married and had a new baby. He wanted to drive to my house in Thornton for a family Christmas. I called him to tell him to stay home we would celebrate later the snow was already very deep. He was in Ft. Collins and he didn’t see any snow that’s right it snowed here but 50 miles away no snow so he got his family in his car and headed this way. He was fine to just this side of the Eerie exit. Then it took 2-3 hours of one lane open only on I25 to get the last 20 or so miles. I had to dig a parking place for his car on the street and defend it from poachers as I don’t have a driveway. So anyway he got here all were fine he stayed a couple of days and everything kind of melted away.

  54. Jim Kaplan Says:

    The article notes that the storm was fresh in voters’ mind next May and led to the defeat of Mayor McNichols. What was not noted was that May 17 dawned with a full blown blizzard in the Denver area, just in case any voters HAD forgotten the issue.

  55. Roger Tomes Says:

    I was working at TWA and was on the day shift when we were having the Blizzard. It just got worse and worse. By the end of the shift we could not even get a crew bus to the parking lot located near I-70, and as a consequence we had to spend Christmas eve at the airport. The next day-Christmas, Stapleton’s “Tonga Line” (the crew that cleared the runways) had helped clear the road to the I-70 parking lot, but not the lot itself where vehicles were covered with snow. So our mechanics took our aircraft tow tractors, and went down to the parking lot, and pulled each and every one us out one or two at a time to where we could get to the access road out of the employee parking lot. By that time the city of Denver had begun to clear I-70. I did not get home until mid after noon Christmas day. We had company, and if my memory serves correctly, we didn’t open presents until I got home. I wanted see my daughter open her presents. I wanted to see the expression/excitement on her face as she opened her presents. What a time to have a Blizzard!!!!

  56. Thornton Weather Says:

    We have updated this story with a new version that includes some great photos. Please click here to visit that page and comment there. We love hearing everyone’s thoughts on this amazing storm!