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December 22 to December 28: This Week in Denver Weather History

Wednesday, December 25th, 2019 4:58am MDT

This Week in Denver Weather History

The period around the Christmas holiday has historically been a pretty eventful one for the Denver metro area. Our look back at this week in Denver weather history showcases a wide variety of extreme conditions. From powerful, damaging winds to extreme cold to monstrous blizzards, we can and have seen it all.

From the National Weather Service:

17-24

In 1924…a prolonged cold spell occurred after mild temperatures during the first half of the month. Most low temperatures dipped below zero with the coldest reading of 15 degrees below zero occurring on the 24th. The high temperature of only 5 degrees on the 18th was a record low maximum for the date.

18-24

In 1998…a vigorous cold front with north winds gusting as high as 38 mph at Denver International Airport on the 18th dropped temperatures from a high of 51 degrees to a low of just 6 degrees before midnight. The arctic air mass that settled over metro Denver produced intermittent light snow and a week-long protracted cold spell that caused low temperatures to plunge well below zero for 6 consecutive nights. The coldest temperature was 19 degrees below zero on the morning of the 22nd. High temperatures climbed only into the single digits on 4 consecutive days…from the 19th through the 22nd. At least 15 people…mostly homeless… Were treated for hypothermia at area hospitals. The bitter cold weather was responsible…either directly or indirectly… For at least 5 fatalities. Three of the victims died directly from exposure. The cold weather also caused intermittent power outages. Following the cold snap… Thawing water pipes cracked and burst in several homes and businesses…causing extensive damage. Only one temperature record was set. The high temperature of only 7 degrees on the 19th set a record low maximum for the date.

19-23

In 1990…a surge of very cold arctic air invaded metro Denver. Many temperature records were broken as the mercury remained at or below zero for 85.5 hours at Stapleton International Airport…making it the third longest period of subzero readings in 118 years of record keeping. On the morning of the 22nd…the mercury plunged to 25 degrees below zero…which equaled the all-time record low temperature for the month set on December 24…1876. In the foothills southwest of Denver at tiny town…the mercury plunged to 33 degrees below zero on the morning of the 21st. On the same morning at Castle Rock the temperature dipped to 26 degrees below zero. During the period…other daily temperature records were set at Denver…including: record low maximum of 3 degrees below zero on the 20th and a record low of 17 degrees below zero on the 23rd. The record low was equaled with 16 degrees below zero on the 20th and 21 degrees below zero on the 21st. Snowfall totaled 2.7 inches at Stapleton International Airport from the 19th through the 21st.

20-22

In 1933…strong downslope winds produced a warm spell. Low temperatures of 43 degrees on both the 20th and 21st and 41 degrees on the 22nd were record high minimums for those dates. High temperature of 67 degrees on the 21st was a record maximum for the date. High temperatures of 56 degrees on the 20th and 69 degrees on the 22nd were not records; however…the 69 degrees was the warmest of the month. West to northwest winds were sustained to 20 and 24 mph on the 21st and 22nd respectively.

20-23

In 1918…light snowfall on each day totaled 12.0 inches over downtown Denver. Northeast winds were sustained to 16 mph on the 21st.

20-25

In 1983…an extremely bitter cold spell occurred. The temperature remained below zero for 115 hours in Denver… The longest sub-zero period on record. The mercury dipped to 21 degrees below zero on the 21st…the coldest recorded temperature in over 20 years. The cold was accompanied by winds that plunged chill factors to 50 to 70 degrees below zero. Two people froze to death in Denver; both were found outside dead of exposure. Numerous cases of frostbite were reported. Hundreds of water pipes broke from the intense cold…water mains and natural gas lines also fractured…and electricity consumption reached record levels. Light snow totaling 5.8 inches fell at times…and holiday traffic was delayed at Stapleton International Airport for several hours. Eight daily temperature records were set at the time. The all-time record low maximum temperature for the month of 8 degrees below zero on the 21st still stands today. Other temperature records still standing include record low maximum temperatures of 5 degrees below zero on both the 22nd and 23rd and 4 degrees below zero on the 24th.

21-22

In 1969…strong winds raked the eastern foothills in Boulder and Jefferson counties. Wind gusts to 115 mph were recorded at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder…while in downtown Boulder winds gusted to 75 mph. Some damage occurred.

In 1981…a snow storm dumped 3 to 8 inches of snow across eastern Colorado. Snowfall totaled 6.8 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to only 17 mph.

In 2011…large scale lift from an upper level low combined with a deep easterly upslope flow behind a cold front to produce heavy snow in and near the Front Range foothills and Palmer Divide. Storm totals ranged from 1.5 to 3 feet in the Front Range foothills…with 1 to 1.5 feet along the urban corridor. In the Front Range foothills and Palmer Divide…storm totals included: 36.5 inches…7 miles southwest of Boulder; 32 inches…12 miles northwest of Golden; 28 inches at Genesee; 24.5 inches…3 miles west of Jamestown; 23 inches at Bergen Park; 21 inches at Evergreen and Gross Reservoir; 19 inches near Eldorado Springs and 3 miles west-southwest of Conifer; 17 inches…4 miles south- southwest of Tiny Town; and 13.5 inches…15 miles north of Elizabeth. Along the urban corridor…storm totals included: 18 inches in Golden; 14.5 inches in Boulder…13 inches at the National Weather Service in Boulder; 12.5 inches…5 miles south-southwest of Arapahoe Park; 12 inches at Lone Tree; 11.5 inches in Broomfield; 11 inches in Arvada…4 miles northwest of Elbert…Niwot and Wheatridge; 10 inches in northwest Denver; with 7.3 inches at Denver International Airport.

21-23

In 1924…heavy snowfall totaled 7.9 inches over downtown Denver. During the storm north to northeast winds were sustained to 21 mph. Temperatures were quite cold…ranging from a high of 24 degrees on the 21st to a low of 5 degrees below zero on the 23rd.

In 1964…high winds were recorded along the eastern foothills. A wind gust to 100 mph was registered at Jefferson County Airport near Broomfield. In Boulder… Where many thousands of dollars in damage occurred…warm Chinook winds gusted in excess of 45 mph downtown. A wind gust to 82 mph was recorded at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. Heavy damage to power lines…homes…and roads was reported at Evergreen…Golden… And Boulder. Several people were injured by wind-caused accidents. West winds gusted to 53 mph on the 22nd and to 51 mph on the 23rd at Stapleton International Airport where some blowing dust occurred. The Chinook winds warmed temperatures in Denver to highs of 68 degrees on the 22nd and 71 degrees on the 23rd.

» Click here to read the rest of December 22 to December 28: This Week in Denver Weather History

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Christmas Eve to remain dry, unseasonably warm

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019 5:09am MDT

Not much change in the weather from what we have been experiencing in recent days. We once again will see mercury readings well above normal and conditions remain dry.

The day starts with mostly cloudy skies then we will see a bit of clearing leading to partly sunny conditions. Winds will be light, conditions dry. High temperatures today will be in the upper 50s.

Tonight, mostly cloudy skies will be above with lows around 30 degrees.

In short, nothing in this forecast that will give Santa Claus any problems when he makes his deliveries tonight. 😉

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Mild temperatures, a good bit of cloud cover starts Thornton’s workweek

Monday, December 23rd, 2019 4:57am MDT

We will enjoy another unseasonably warm day today. Temperatures will be far above normal but we will have cloud cover overhead.

Mostly cloudy skies will be the general rule throughout the day due to a good bit of upper level moisture. Winds will be light and out of the southwest this morning, then changing to come from the north. High temperatures today will top out in the low to mid-60s.

Tonight, skies remain mostly cloudy with lows near freezing.

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Thornton’s weekend weather to offer up calm, mild conditions

Friday, December 20th, 2019 5:30am MDT

Tomorrow brings the first day of winter but you wouldn’t know it from this forecast. Today will be on the cool side but then Saturday and Sunday will see some of the warmest readings we have seen in a month.

For Friday, sunny skies will be above to start things off and continue through the day with nary a cloud to be found. Highs today will push to near the 50 degree mark. Tonight, skies remain clear with lows in the mid-20s.

Saturday continues the warming trend with highs near 60 degrees. There will be some cloud cover but mostly sunny skies will prevail. Saturday night into Sunday, clouds increase and lows will be a bit below freezing.

Sunday will be the warmest day of the three day period but also the cloudiest. Partly sunny skies will be above with highs in the low 60s.

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Thursday brings cooler temperatures, a good bit of cloud cover

Thursday, December 19th, 2019 4:55am MDT

Following yesterday’s mild and sunny weather, we weak system provides a little bit of impact to today’s weather. Temperatures will be cooler – but still above normal – and cloud cover will be increased.

Partly clear skies start us off this morning then coverage will increase into the early afternoon before things begin to clear off in the late afternoon. Temperatures will top off in the mid-40s, above the average high for the date of 42 degrees.

Tonight, skies will be mostly clear with lows in the low 20s.

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December 15 to December 21: This Week in Denver Weather History

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019 4:07pm MDT

This Week in Denver Weather History

Powerful, damaging wind, deadly cold and monster snowstorms are the highlights of this week in Denver weather history.

From the National Weather Service:

12-15

In 1921…downslope Chinook winds produced warm temperatures in the city…which resulted in 4 temperature records. High temperatures of 72 degrees on the 13th and 68 degrees on the 15th were record maximums for the dates. Low temperatures of 47 degrees on both the 12th and 13th were record high minimums for the dates. West winds were sustained to 38 mph on the 12th and to 25 mph on the 13th.

14-15

In 1988…a snow storm again whitened metro Denver. Snowfall along the Front Range was in the 6 to 12 inch range. Snowfall totaled 5.8 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 38 mph.

In 1990…high winds howled across metro Denver behind a strong pacific cold front. Boulder was hardest hit by the high winds. A wind gust to 120 mph was recorded in south Boulder where winds stripped the roof off a garage…a vacant gas station…and a house under construction. Elsewhere in Boulder…several trees were blown down. In Boulder canyon…the winds toppled two cinder block walls on a house under construction. Four Boulder County women were treated for injuries caused by the wind. The injuries were confined to a broken wrist…a mild concussion…bruises…and facial cuts. Two semi-tractor trailers were blown over by the fierce winds south of Boulder. Another truck rollover occurred southeast of Golden. Drivers of all three trucks suffered only cuts and bruises. Several vehicles were trapped in a blinding dust storm on the Denver-Boulder turnpike near Broomfield. Drivers were forced to stop along the highway for several minutes during the storm and witness their vehicles being pelted with sand and gravel. A wind gust to 97 mph was recorded in Golden. High winds were also reported in Arvada…Boulder…and Lakewood. Winds toppled a number of utility poles and wooden fences…blew out windows…and caused structural damage to a large apartment complex on the west side of Golden. Wind gusts of 70 to 100 mph caused considerable damage to several large billboards north of Golden…as well as damaging the paint…trim…and glass on numerous vehicles in the area. A west wind gust to 51 mph was recorded at Stapleton International Airport.

15

In 1999…high winds developed in and near the foothills as a strong upper level jet moved into the area. Although most wind gusts were in the 70 to 80 mph range…a weather spotter located 1 mile south of Fritz Peak near Rollinsville measured a peak wind gust to 124 mph. Other wind reports included wind gusts to 77 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder and atop Blue Mountain and 70 mph at the national wind technology center on Rocky Flats south of Boulder. West winds gusted to only 32 mph at Denver International Airport.

In 2000…high winds developed in the foothills of Boulder County…but winds were strong across all of metro Denver. Winds gusted as high as 72 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research on the mesa just southwest of Boulder. West winds gusted to 44 mph at Denver International Airport.

15-16

In 1964…high winds raked metro Denver…causing considerable damage. Wind gusts to 81 mph were recorded at Rocky Flats northwest of Denver…94 mph at Jefferson County Airport near Broomfield…48 mph in downtown Boulder…and 70 mph in Littleton. West wind gusts to 67 mph were recorded at Stapleton International Airport. A man working on construction in downtown Denver died from injuries after being struck by a 5-foot by 8-foot section of plank runway blown by the strong winds. Several people were blown down by the strong winds or hit by flying objects. Buildings… Roads…trees…and power equipment were damaged. Roads were closed east of Denver due to blowing dust.

In 1981…wind gusts to 60 mph were common in the foothills northwest of Denver. West wind gusts to 47 mph were recorded at Stapleton International Airport where the visibility was briefly reduced to 3 miles in blowing dust.

In 1996…strong pre-frontal winds developed in the foothills of Boulder County ahead of an arctic cold front that moved into northeastern Colorado late on the morning of the 16th. Wind gusts of 70 to 75 mph were clocked at Table Mesa in southwest Boulder.

16

In 1912…northwest winds were sustained to 44 mph with an extreme velocity of 45 mph.

In 1921…north winds were sustained to 46 mph with gusts to 50 mph behind a vigorous cold front. Only a trace of snow fell.

In 1954…a vigorous cold front produced sustained north winds to 45 mph with gusts as high 54 mph. Visibility was reduced to 1 mile in blowing dust at Stapleton Airport.

In 1955…sustained west winds to 44 mph with gusts as high as 58 mph were recorded at Stapleton Airport.

In 1994…a wind gust to 108 mph was recorded atop Squaw Mountain west of Denver with a gust to 92 mph in Rollinsville southwest of Boulder. West winds gusted to 48 mph at Stapleton International Airport.

In 1996…a vigorous arctic cold front moved across metro Denver. Heavy snow and strong winds accompanied the front as near whiteout conditions in snow and blowing snow developed suddenly. Northerly winds gusted from 40 to 60 mph behind the front. Dozens of accidents occurred as roads and highways quickly turned to a glaze of ice. Snowfall amounts ranged from 4 to 6 inches across metro Denver and in the foothills. The exception was at Eldorado Springs south of Boulder where 8 inches of new snow were measured. Snowfall totaled only 1.8 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. Officially…this was the only measurable snow of the month in Denver. At Denver International Airport…north winds gusted to 34 mph.

In 1999…another brief round of high winds developed in and near the foothills of Boulder County. Peak wind gusts included 83 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research near Boulder and 74 mph atop Niwot Ridge and at the National Wind Technology Center on Rocky Flats south of Boulder. West winds gusted to only 33 mph at Denver International Airport where the temperature warmed to a high of 54 degrees.

In 2000…high winds in the mountains spread into the foothills west of Denver. Winds gusted to 87 mph at Georgetown Lake and at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. Winds gusted to 72 mph at the national wind technology center south of Boulder.

16-17

In 1908…heavy snowfall totaled 7.9 inches in downtown Denver where north winds were sustained to 20 mph on the 17th. Temperatures were in the teens and 20’s.

In 1939…low temperatures of 49 degrees on the 16th and 43 degrees on the 17th were record high minimums for the dates. High temperatures of 65 on the 16th and 72 on the 17th were not records.

In 1980…Chinook winds blew through the night in Boulder with a peak reported gust to 75 mph. Northwest winds gusted to 30 mph at Stapleton International Airport on the 17th. The strong Chinook winds warmed temperatures to record daily highs of 70 degrees on the 16th and 73 degrees on the 17th.

In 2016…the presence of a warm and moist southwesterly flow aloft…overrunning an Arctic airmass with shallow post frontal upslope produced a band of very heavy snowfall across the Denver metro area. The enhanced band of heavy snow extended west into the Front Range mountains and foothills with snowfall rates up to 2 inches per hour. Multiple accidents occurred during the evening hours of the 16th as the snow quickly piled up. Three hundred flights were canceled at Denver International Airport as the winter storm moved through the Denver metro area early morning hours of the 17th. Storm totals in the Front Range mountains and foothills included: 16 inches at Loveland Ski Area; 12 inches near Conifer…11 inches at Winter Park Ski Area…10.5 inches at Bergen Park… 10 inches at Echo Lake…with 9.5 inches at Aspen Springs and Evergreen. In and around metro Denver…storm totals included: 11.5 inches in Wheat Ridge…11 inches in Arvada… 9 inches near Morrison…8 inches at Denver International Airport…Denver/Stapleton…Marston Reservoir and Ralston Reservoir; 7.5 inches in Westminster; 6.5 inches…5 miles northeast of Westminster; 6 inches in Aurora…5 miles west-northwest of Brighton…Englewood and near Louisville.

17

In 2000…high winds gusting from 60 to 74 mph howled across the northeast plains of Colorado. In Parker where winds gusted to 60 mph…a 20-foot by 40-foot piece of roof was ripped from a building. West winds gusted to 53 mph at Denver International Airport. This was the highest wind gust of the month at the airport. An intense…but very localized wind gust to 112 mph was measured near Georgetown lake in the foothills west of Denver.

17-24

In 1924…a prolonged cold spell occurred after mild temperatures during the first half of the month. Most low temperatures dipped below zero with the coldest reading of 15 degrees below zero occurring on the 24th. The high temperature of only 5 degrees on the 18th was a record low maximum for the date.

18

In 1901…north winds were sustained to 52 mph with gusts to 58 mph behind an apparent cold front.

In 1973…a brief blizzard dumped heavy snow across metro Denver. Snowfall totaled 9.2 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusting to 53 mph produced much blowing snow. The storm forced many schools and businesses to close.

In 1996…a homeless man in Denver was found unconscious in his car suffering from exposure. The man’s body temperature was only 85 degrees when he was discovered. He died several hours later. Early morning temperatures had dipped to 9 degrees below zero.

In 1999…high winds were reported for a brief time in the foothills. Winds gusted to 72 mph in Golden Gate Canyon and to 71 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the foothills southwest of Boulder. West winds gusted to only 39 mph at Denver International Airport where the temperature warmed to a high of 53 degrees.

In 2002…only a trace of snow fell at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. This…along with the trace of snow on the 5th…was the only snow of the month…ranking the month the 2nd least snowiest on record.

18-19

In 2012…a storm system brought moderate to heavy snow to the mountains and foothills west of metropolitan Denver and blizzard conditions to plains east of Denver metro area. The combination of snow and wind reportedly reduced visibility to just a few hundred feet at times…and resulted in several road closures including interstate 70 east of Aurora. East of Denver gusty northerly winds ranged from 35 to 55 mph produced extensive blowing and drifting snow…ranging from 1 to 4 feet in depth. Storm totals ranged from 3 to 5 inches. In the mountain and foothills…the heaviest snowfall occurred along and north of I-70 and included: 12 inches at Genesee…9 inches near Eldorado Springs; 8.5 inches at Coal Creek Canyon…8 inches near Evergreen…with 6 inches at Eldora Ski Area…Idaho Springs…Gross Reservoir and Nederland. At Denver International Airport…1.7 inches of snowfall was observed. In addition…a peak wind gust to 35 mph was observed from the north on the 19th.

18-21

In 2010…a winter storm produced a 4-day period of moderate to heavy snow in the mountains. The combination of strong wind and heavy snow forced the closure of several mountain passes due to the threat of avalanches. The Amtrak train route… Which runs from Denver to California…was rerouted through Wyoming when Union Pacific closed its tracks along interstate 70. Numerous accidents forced the closure of I-70 at times. The wind gusted to 60 mph over the higher mountain passes. Storm totals in the ski areas west of Denver ranged from 16 to 32 inches.

18-24

In 1998…a vigorous cold front with north winds gusting as high as 38 mph at Denver International Airport on the 18th dropped temperatures from a high of 51 degrees to a low of just 6 degrees before midnight. The arctic air mass that settled over metro Denver produced intermittent light snow and a week-long protracted cold spell that caused low temperatures to plunge well below zero for 6 consecutive nights. The coldest temperature was 19 degrees below zero on the morning of the 22nd. High temperatures climbed only into the single digits on 4 consecutive days…from the 19th through the 22nd. At least 15 people…mostly homeless… Were treated for hypothermia at area hospitals. The bitter cold weather was responsible…either directly or indirectly… For at least 5 fatalities. Three of the victims died directly from exposure. The cold weather also caused intermittent power outages. Following the cold snap… Thawing water pipes cracked and burst in several homes and businesses…causing extensive damage. Only one temperature record was set. The high temperature of only 7 degrees on the 19th set a record low maximum for the date.

» Click here to read the rest of December 15 to December 21: This Week in Denver Weather History

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Astronomical winter arrives Saturday, offers the shortest day of the year

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019 9:00am MDT
The Winter Solstice

Winter officially begins at 9:28am MST on Thursday, December 21, 2017. (NOAA)

Astronomical winter arrives in Thornton Saturday evening and with the solstice also comes the shortest day of the year.

Winter officially begins at 9:19pm MST on Saturday, December 21, 2019.

The Winter Solstice occurs when the North Pole is tilted at its furthest from the sun – 23.5 degrees away. This results in the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

Here in Denver, with sunrise at 7:17am and sunset at 4:38pm, our day Saturday will be 9 hours, 21 minutes and 16 seconds long.

The following day, Sunday, it will be about a second longer and each day from now through to the Summer Solstice in June will get gradually longer as well.

While we have a short day on the solstice, it is nothing like what will be experienced in the Arctic Circle.  Areas north of there to the North Pole will have no direct sunlight at all.  Conversely, areas south of the Antarctic Circle toward the South Pole will have 24 hours of daylight and have a midnight sun.

Did you know that there is a difference between the astronomical seasons that we are discussing here and meteorological seasons?

Meteorological seasons differ slightly and are geared toward matching the calendar with the annual temperature cycle. This is done primarily for meteorological observing and forecasting and in many ways it is more logical than the astronomical seasons.

For the Northern Hemisphere, the meteorological spring covers the months of March, April and May. Summer brings the hottest months of the year and so meteorological summer is June, July and August. Meteorological fall then is September, October and November followed by the coldest months of December, January and February as meteorological winter.

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Warmer temperatures, lots of sun for Thornton’s Wednesday

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019 4:54am MDT

Today we will finally break out of the recent chill. Temperatures will warm to well-above-normal levels and we’ll enjoy a good dose of sun above.

Clear skies start us off and will be with us for much of the morning. We will see just a few clouds later but nothing intrusive. Winds will be light and out of the southwest initially, shifting to out of the north this afternoon. Highs today will top out in the low 50s, about 10 degrees above normal for the date.

Tonight, partly cloudy skies will be above with overnight lows in the mid-20s.

You can keep an eye on current conditions with our live weather gauges here.

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Tuesday brings temperatures near normal, a good bit of sun

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 4:56am MDT

We will start our recovery from the chill of recent days with a nice, late fall day today. Mercury readings will come in close to average and there will be plenty of that beautiful, Colorado blue above.

Clear skies start us off and then we will see a few clouds around mid-day before clearing again. Winds will be light and out of the west, helping to warm us up. High temperatures today in Thornton will be right near the 40 degree mark.

Tonight, skies will be clear and lows dropping into the teens.

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Thornton’s workweek starts with cold temperatures, calm conditions

Monday, December 16th, 2019 5:07am MDT

Another day with below normal temperatures but it will be a quiet one with the sun staging a return. Over the longer term, we look to enjoy warming temperatures for the rest of the week and into the weekend.

For today, we start out with a good bit of cloud cover but will see it ease quickly this morning leading to mostly sunny skies for the afternoon. Temperatures today will top out right near the freezing mark.

Tonight, clear skies are going to help lead us to a cold night with lows near 10 degrees.

Over the longer term, tomorrow will remain cooler than normal but then we see a warming trend that will see above normal temperatures through the weekend. Get more details in the extended weather forecast here.

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