Protracted cold spells, damaging and injuring winds and heavy snowfall mark our look back at this week in Denver weather history.
From the National Weather Service:
In 1962…a protracted cold spell kept metro Denver in the deep freeze for more than a week. From the 15th thru the 23rd…low temperatures were zero or below for 9 consecutive days…but a daily record low was set only on the 22nd when the temperature dipped to 14 degrees below zero. A record low maximum for the date was also set on the 22nd when the temperature climbed to only 11 degrees. The coldest high temperature was 3 degrees above zero on the 21st…which did not break the record. The protracted cold was broken for only a few hours on the afternoon of the 20th when Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 38 degrees before another surge of cold arctic air plunged temperatures back into the deep freeze that evening. The severe cold caused much damage to water systems. A woman was frozen to death at Morrison. There were other deaths attributable to the weather…including traffic deaths and heart attacks from overexertion.
In 2005…a week of mid-winter unseasonably warm weather pushed high temperatures into the 60’s or more on all but one day. During the period…the highest temperature of 70 degrees on the 20th was a new record maximum for the date. Low temperatures remained above freezing on 4 of the days.
In 1937…a second incursion of cold arctic in less than two weeks kept temperatures in the deep freeze for three days… Even though only one temperature record was set during the period. Temperatures were below zero for an estimated 53 consecutive hours. The below zero period would have been longer had the temperatures on the 20th not climbed to a high of 1 degree after a low of 8 degrees below zero. On the 21st…the high temperature of 1 degree below zero was a record low maximum for the date. Low readings on both the 21st and 22nd were 9 degrees below zero.
In 1971…high winds raked Boulder. Wind gusts to 77 mph were recorded at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Winds gusted to 83 mph in south Boulder and to 68 mph in downtown Boulder. Minor personal injuries occurred…and reported damage to structures totaled 15 thousand dollars. On the 21st…northwest winds gusted to 44 mph at Stapleton International Airport. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 69 degrees on the 20th…which equaled the record for the date.
In 1993…sporadic high winds along the east slopes of the Front Range during the early morning hours of the 20th moved onto the foothills and plains by the 22nd. Wind gusts of 55 to 65 mph were common. Some significant wind reports included 82 mph at Rollinsville and atop Squaw Mountain west of Denver…and 75 mph on Rocky Flats. At Stapleton International Airport…west winds gusted to 35 mph on the 20th…44 mph on the 21st…and 55 mph on the 22nd.
In 1972…wind gusts to 74 mph were recorded at the National Bureau of Standards in Boulder…while in downtown Boulder wind gusts to 56 mph were measured. The strong winds overturned a plane at the Arapahoe County airport. A motorcyclist died of injuries when he was blown off a Boulder County road. Northwest winds gusted to 39 mph at Stapleton International Airport on the 21st.
In 1999…heavy snow developed across portions of metro Denver and in the foothills. Snowfall totals included: 8 inches in Golden Gate Canyon…Intercanyon…Rollinsville… And Parker; 7 inches at Aspen Springs…Gross Reservoir… Pine Junction…and 5 miles south of Sedalia; 6 inches at Highlands Ranch; and 5 inches at Eaglecrest…Eldorado Springs…and Louisville. Snowfall totaled 2.6 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. On the 21st…north-northwest winds gusted to 31 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1899…a cold front produced northeast sustained winds to 50 mph with gusts to 60 mph in the city.
In 1951…a heavy windstorm struck Boulder. Minor damage was reported. Strong post-frontal east winds gusted to 45 mph at Stapleton Airport.
In 1990…strong winds of 50 to 90 mph buffeted the foothills. No significant damage was reported. West winds gusted to 37 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1992…strong winds raked the eastern foothills with a wind gust to 58 mph recorded at Rocky Flats just northwest of Denver. West winds gusted to only 25 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 2003…only a trace of snow fell at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. This along with a trace of snow on the 1st was the only snow of the month…which equaled the record for the least snowiest January first set in 1934.
In 1982…wind gusts up to 101 mph were clocked at Wondervu. Wind gusts of 60 to 80 mph were common along the Front Range foothills from Boulder north.
In 1948…the longest period of snowfall on record (92 hours and 3 minutes) occurred in downtown Denver where a total of 13.6 inches of snow fell. At Stapleton Airport…19.0 inches of snow fell…making it the heaviest snow in January and the 5th heaviest snow of record at that time. North winds were sustained to a velocity of 23 mph on the 25th…but generally the winds were light throughout the storm. The snow disrupted traffic…but street clearing was begun soon after it became apparent that the snow would be heavy. Over the 5 days…temperatures ranged from a high of 48 degrees on the 22nd to a low of 1 degree on the 26th. Most readings were in the teens and 20’s during the storm.
In 1872…a brisk northerly wind set in about noon…blew almost a gale about 6:00 pm…and continued brisk until night. A light snow commenced during the late afternoon and continued all night.
In 1886…northwest winds were sustained to 40 mph in the city around sunrise. A cold wave accompanied the strong winds.
In 1897…a vigorous cold front produced northeast winds sustained to 45 mph with gusts to 50 mph. Temperatures plunged from a high of 59 degrees to a low of 11 degrees in the evening. The very cold temperatures persisted through the 28th.
In 1934…the date marked the last day of the longest period of consecutive days without measurable precipitation in the city. The 52 day period began on December 3…1933.
In 1988…one of the strongest windstorms in several years pounded the Front Range foothills from Colorado Springs north to the Wyoming border. The highest wind gust at lower elevations was 105 mph recorded at Table Mesa in Boulder. Other sections of Boulder recorded wind gusts of 80 to 90 mph. In Boulder…the high winds broke windows and damaged power lines and transformers. Power outages were widespread and traffic lights were downed. The winds blew down a partially constructed viaduct in east Boulder. Nine unanchored concrete girders…each weighing 45 tons…were blown off their supports. Cars were blown off I-70 near Morrison…and a tractor trailer and a mobile home were knocked over. In Lakewood…an electric company crewman was burned while replacing a power line. Wind gusts to 92 mph were clocked at Jefferson County Airport in Broomfield before the site anemometer was blown down by the wind. The strong winds spread over all the metro area with a northwest wind gust to 52 mph recorded at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1992…high winds buffeted the eastern foothills. A wind gust to 63 mph was recorded at Rocky Flats northwest of Denver. West winds gusted to 40 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 2002…low level upslope flow combined with an upper level jet stream created bands of heavy snow over portions of the Front Range foothills and metro Denver. The areas hardest hit were the foothills of Jefferson and Douglas counties and the I-25 corridor from the southern suburbs of Denver to around Castle Rock. Snow totals included: 9 inches at Intercanyon…Roxborough State Park…and near Sedalia; 8.5 inches atop Crow Hill and near Tiny Town; 8 inches at Ken Caryl and near Castle Rock; 7 inches in Lakewood; 6.5 inches at Littleton; and 6 inches in Castle Rock. Only 3.6 inches of snow were measured at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.
In 1921…heavy snowfall in downtown Denver totaled 8.0 inches overnight. Northwest winds were sustained to 22 mph with gusts to 25 mph on the 24th.