March 19 to March 25: This week in Denver weather history
March is of course one of Denver’s snowiest months, oftentimes bringing our biggest snowfalls of the season. We see this fact bear out in our look back with many events having delivered extraordinary snowfall totals.
From the National Weather Service:
In 1906…an extended cold and blustery period occurred with light snow totaling 14.4 inches over 11 consecutive days. The greatest amount of snow on a single day was 4.0 inches on the 15th. Only a trace of snow fell on the 12th and 17th. High temperatures were below freezing for the entire period. The coldest were 14 degrees on the 16th and 18 degrees on the 17th. Both readings were record low maximums for the dates. Low temperatures were mostly in the single digits. The coldest were 2 degrees below zero on the 16th and 5 degrees below zero on the 19th. Northeast winds were sustained to 22 mph on the 9th. North winds were sustained to 36 mph on the 10th…32 mph on the 13th…and 22 mph on the 15th.
In 1933…rain changed to snow on the evening of the 17th and continued through mid-day of the 19th. Snowfall totaled 5.6 inches with 0.83 inch of precipitation in the city. North winds were sustained to 38 mph with gusts to 46 mph on the 18th and to 30 mph with gusts to 43 mph on the 19th.
In 2003…one of the worst blizzards since historic records began in 1872 struck metro Denver with a vengeance. Heavy wet snow accumulating to around 3 feet in the city and to more than 7 feet in the foothills brought transportation to a near standstill. North winds sustained to 30 mph with gusts as high as 41 mph produced drifts to 6 feet in the city. The estimated cost of property damage alone…not including large commercial buildings…was 93 million dollars… Making it the costliest snowstorm ever. Mayor Wellington Webb of Denver said…”this is the storm of the century…a backbreaker…a record breaker…a roof breaker.” Two people died in Aurora from heart attacks after shoveling the heavy wet snow. The National Guard sent 40 soldiers and 20 heavy duty vehicles to rescue stranded travelers along I-70 east of gun club road. The heavy wet snow caused roofs of homes and businesses to collapse. The snow also downed trees…branches…and power lines. Two people were injured when the roofs of their homes collapsed. In Denver alone…at least 258 structures were damaged. In Arvada…a roof collapse at West Gate Stables killed a horse. Up to 135 thousand people lost power during the storm…and it took several days for power to be restored in some areas. Denver International Airport was closed…stranding about 4000 travelers. The weight of the heavy snow caused a 40-foot gash in a portion of the tent roof…forcing the evacuation of that section of the main terminal building. Avalanches in the mountains and foothills closed many roads…including I-70…stranding hundreds of skiers and travelers. Along I-70…an avalanche released by the Colorado department of transportation…blocked the interstate in both directions for several hours. Several residences between Baskerville and Silver Plume were evacuated because of the high avalanche danger. At Eldora Ski Area…270 skiers were stranded when an avalanche closed the main access road. After the storm ended…a military helicopter had to ferry food to the resort until the road could be cleared. The heavy snow trapped thousands of residents in their foothills homes in Jefferson County for several days. Two homes burned to the ground when fire crews could not reach the residences. Some schools remained closed well into the following week. The storm officially dumped 31.8 inches of snow at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport…the most snowfall from a single storm since the all-time record snowfall of 37.5 inches on December 4-5…1913. The storm made March 2003 the snowiest March on record…the 4th snowiest month on record… And the 5th wettest March on record. The 22.9 inches of snow on the 18th into the 19th was the greatest 24 hour snowfall ever recorded in the city during the month of March. The storm was also a drought-buster…breaking 19 consecutive months of below normal precipitation in the city. Snowfall across metro Denver ranged from 2 feet to more than 3 feet. The highest amounts included: 40 inches in Aurora…38 inches in Centennial and 6 miles east of Parker…37 inches at Buckley AFB…35 inches in southwest Denver…34 inches in Louisville… 32 inches in Arvada…31 inches in Broomfield and Westminster… And 22.5 inches in Boulder. In the foothills…snowfall ranged from 3 feet to more than 7 feet. Some of the most impressive storm totals included: 87.5 inches atop Fritz Peak and in Rollinsville…83 inches at cabin creek…74 inches near Bergen Park…73 inches northwest of Evergreen…72 inches in Coal Creek Canyon…70 inches at Georgetown…63 inches near Jamestown…60 inches near Blackhawk…55 inches at Eldora Ski Area…54 inches 8 miles west of Sedalia…and 46.6 inches at Ken Caryl Ranch. The storm was the result of a very moist…intense slow moving Pacific system which tracked across the four corners and into southeastern Colorado…which allowed deep easterly upslope flow to form along the Front Range.
In 1927…heavy snowfall was 6.5 inches in downtown Denver. Northwest winds were sustained to 28 mph on the 18th.
In 1974…heavy snowfall totaled 5.8 inches at Stapleton International Airport where northeast winds gusted to 33 mph on the 19th.
In 1907…a warm spell resulted in 6 daily temperature records. Record maximum temperatures of 82 degrees occurred on the 18th with 81 degrees on the 19th and 80 degrees on the 20th. Record high minimum temperatures of 52 degrees occurred on the 19th and 20th with 54 degrees on the 21st.
In 1969…high winds buffeted the Front Range foothills causing damage in Boulder and Jefferson counties. A freight train was derailed near the entrance to a canyon 20 miles west of Denver when some empty cars were caught on a curve by a gust of wind. Two light planes were heavily damaged at Jefferson County Airport. Winds gusted to 105 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder…62 mph in downtown Boulder…and 80 to 90 mph at Boulder airport. Northwest winds gusted to 49 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1976…northwest winds gusted to 55 mph in Denver with stronger winds along the foothills. The strong cold winds kicked up some blowing dust…reducing the visibility to near zero at times at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1982…high winds across metro Denver caused minor damage to a few mobile homes at Lowry Air Force Base. West wind gusts reached 51 mph at Stapleton International Airport where visibility was briefly reduced to 1/4 mile in blowing dust.
In 1995…strong winds associated with a pacific cold front blew across metro Denver. A west wind gust to 48 mph was recorded at Denver International Airport. Winds gusted to 59 mph at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.
In 2010…a storm system produced deep upslope and brought heavy snow to areas in and near the Front Range. The foothills of Boulder and Jefferson counties were the hardest hit. Storm totals included: 26 inches at Coal Creek Canyon…25.5 inches…4 miles southeast of Conifer; 25 inches at Genesee…24.5 inches near Kittredge… 23.5 inches…6 miles east of Nederland…20.5 inches…3 miles west of Jamestown…5 miles southeast of Aspen Park and 5 miles southeast Idaho Springs; and 18 inches near Ralston buttes. In and around Denver…storm totals included: 15 inches in Golden; 12.5 inches in Boulder…11.5 inches at Lone Tree; 10.5 inches near Castle Pines; 11 inches…6.5 miles southwest of Castle Rock; 10 inches near Englewood…Highlands Ranch and 3 miles southwest of wheat ridge; 9 inches…4 miles west of Arvada…Broomfield…Centennial…Elizabeth and Westminster; 8.5 inches…in southeast Denver and Littleton; 7.5 inches in Louisville and near Thornton; 7 inches…4 miles south of Aurora…Lakewood and Niwot; 6.5 inches…4 miles northwest of Castle Rock…4 miles northwest of Denver and Northglenn; 6 inches in Brighton and 5 miles southeast of Sedalia. Officially… 1.7 inches of snow was measured at Denver International Airport.
Iin 1912…post-frontal heavy snowfall of 6.3 inches was measured in downtown Denver. North winds were sustained to 28 mph with gusts to 30 mph on the 19th. The strong cold front plunged temperatures from a high of 60 degrees on the 19th to a low of 1 degree on the 20th.
In 1959…a major storm dumped heavy snowfall of 7.7 inches on Stapleton Airport where north winds gusting to 44 mph caused much blowing and drifting snow. Many highways were blocked…and there was damage to phone lines along the South Platte River. The storm started as rain and changed to heavy wet snow…which froze on the lines causing the poles to break. The storm caused 2 deaths over eastern Colorado.
In 2006…strong northerly winds…associated with a surface low pressure system that intensified as it moved into the central Great Plains…brought heavy wet snow to the eastern foothills and northeastern plains of Colorado. The hardest hit areas included the foothills of Boulder and Gilpin counties. Storm totals included: 15 inches at Rollinsville… 14 inches at Aspen Springs…12.5 inches near Nederland…and 5.7 inches in the Denver Stapleton area. Strong winds…heavy snow…and poor visibility forced the closure of interstate 70 from Denver east to the Kansas state line. North winds gusted to 32 mph at Denver International Airport on the 19th.
In 1888…heavy snowfall totaled 8.6 inches over downtown Denver. North winds were sustained to 27 mph on the 19th.
In 1915…north winds were sustained to 40 mph with gusts to 42 mph. Only a trace of snow fell.
In 1989…2 to 6 inches of snow fell along the Front Range urban corridor with up to 9 inches in Boulder. Only 1.6 inches of snowfall were measured at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 36 mph.
In 1878…warm days with high temperatures in the lower 70’s in the city…caused snow to melt on the palmer divide…which caused the waters in Cherry Creek to rise. The high…rapid running water damaged a home and eroded bridge footings and abutments. Some bridges became unsafe for the passage of trains.
In 1904…southwest winds sustained to 48 mph with gusts to 60 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 68 degrees on the 20th. The high was only 42 degrees on the 21st behind a cold front…which produced 1.3 inches of snow and northeast winds sustained to 27 mph overnight.
In 1923…post-frontal rain changed to heavy snow and totaled 8.2 inches over the city. North winds were sustained to 27 mph with gusts to 29 mph on the 20th. This was the second major snow in a week.
In 1932…rain changed to heavy snow…which totaled 6.2 inches in downtown Denver. North winds gusted to 22 mph on the 21st.
In 1948…heavy snowfall totaled 7.2 inches over downtown Denver.
In 1952…a major snow storm produced north wind gusts to 35 mph and dumped 16.9 inches of snowfall on Stapleton Airport. The maximum snow depth on the ground was 13 inches due to melting.
In 2000…heavy snow fell in and near the foothills of Douglas and Jefferson counties. Snowfall totals included: 9 inches near tiny town and 7 inches in Littleton. Snowfall totaled only 1.8 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. North winds gusted to 34 mph at Denver International Airport on the 20th.
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