December 25 to December 31: This Week in Denver Weather History
Christmas Day is normally a relatively quiet day in terms of the weather as we recently discussed but the week between it and New Year’s can be quite eventful. Among the highlights are a prolonged period of sub-zero temperatures that lasted nearly five days. Just five years ago a blizzard struck the region that snarled holiday travel on the air and the ground.
From the National Weather Service:
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.
In 1891…heavy snowfall of 7.0 inches in downtown Denver provided a white Christmas. Most of the snow…6.5 inches… Fell on the 24th. Northwest winds were sustained to 30 mph with gusts to 40 mph on the 24th.
In 1894…snow began falling during the evening of the 24th… Ended during the early afternoon of the 25th…and totaled 6.4 inches in downtown Denver. Northwest winds were sustained to 26 mph with gusts to 30 mph on the 24th. The maximum snow depth on the ground was 5 inches. The high temperature was only 18 degrees on the 25th after a low of 8 degrees.
In 1980…strong Chinook winds of 50 to 60 mph occurred in the foothills with a wind gust to 90 mph recorded at Wondervu. West winds gusted to 33 mph at Stapleton International Airport on the 25th.
In 1997…a relatively rare Christmas snowstorm blanketed much of northeastern Colorado. Snowfall in and near the Front Range foothills and south of metro Denver ranged from 5 to 8 inches. Elsewhere…new snow accumulations were generally 1 to 3 inches. Snowfall totaled only 1.5 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. North winds gusted to 29 mph at Denver International Airport on the 24th.
In 2012…a winter-like weather moved into northeast Colorado on Christmas Eve as an upper level trough and a strong cold front moved through the region. At Denver International Airport…2.5 inches of snow fell from Christmas Eve through Christmas morning. The high temperatures on Christmas Day only reached 16 degrees…which was the coldest day of the month.
In 1873…northwest winds were sustained to 36 mph during the morning and to 48 mph in the evening. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 53 degrees.
In 1883…gusty very strong winds raked Boulder…causing 11 hundred dollars in damage.
In 1985…Table Mesa in Boulder was buffeted by wind gusts to 68 mph.
In 1993…occasional high winds occurred over portions of the higher foothills west of Boulder and Denver. A wind gust to 87 mph was recorded on squaw mountain…and a gust to 83 mph occurred at Rollinsville. Northwest winds gusted to 35 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 2007…a winter storm brought heavy snow to the Front Range of Colorado. The heaviest snow fell near the foothills of Boulder…Douglas and Jefferson counties. The snow caused accidents throughout the Denver metropolitan area. Gusty winds produced snow drifts from 2 to 3.5 feet in depth. Total snowfall for the calendar day in Denver was 7.8 inches…setting a new record for Christmas Day. The measurement was taken at the former Stapleton International Airport; the previous record was 6.2 inches… Set in 1894. Storm totals in the Front Range foothills included: 13.5 inches at Coal Creek Canyon; 12 inches…5 miles east-southeast of Aspen Park; 11 inches; 6 miles southwest of kassler; 10.5 inches at Eldorado Springs. Elsewhere…storm totals ranged from 5 to 10 inches. In the urban corridor storm totals included: 9 inches near Elizabeth; 8 inches in southwest Denver…Highlands Ranch…Marston Reservoir and Wheat Ridge; 7.5 inches in Arvada; 7 inches in Centennial and Lakewood; 6.5 inches in Aurora and 8 miles southeast of Watkins; 6 inches in Boulder…Englewood and Parker. Elsewhere…storm totals ranged from 3 to 5 inches.
In 1904…after a warm Christmas Fay with a high temperature of 50 degrees…a late day cold front plunged temperatures to a low of 7 degrees…produced northeast winds sustained to 40 mph with gusts to 54 mph…and produced 5.2 inches of snow overnight for a late white Christmas. The maximum temperature on the 26th was only 16 degrees.
In 2014…a winter storm brought a rare Christmas Day snowfall to the Front Range Foothills and Urban Corridor…from the afternoon of the 25th to the evening of the 26th. Storm totals included: 12.5 inches…4 miles west of Boulder; 12 inches…4 miles southwest of Eldorado Springs and 4 miles south of Golden; 11 inches at Genesee; 10 inches near Allenspark…5 miles west of Chatfield Reservoir… 5 miles southwest of Golden and near Tiny Town; 8 inches in Lakewood and Louisville; 7.5 inches in Niwot; 7 inches in Longmont; with 6 inches in Broomfield and Frederick. At Denver International Airport…5.1 inches of snowfall was observed.
In 1980…temperatures were unusually warm during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. High temperatures for the week ranged from the mid-50’s to the mid-70’s. Four temperature records were set. Record highs occurred on the 26th with 68 degrees…the 27th with 75 degrees…and the 30th with 71 degrees. A record high minimum temperature of 41 degrees occurred on the 27th.
In 1877…heavy snow fell during the early morning and totaled nearly 6 inches. Precipitation from melted snow was 0.58 inch. After the snowfall…a number of sleighs were seen on the city streets.
In 1879…after a morning low of 4 degrees below zero… The temperature climbed to a high of 57 degrees in the city.
In 1907…west winds were sustained to 40 mph. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 62 degrees.
In 1949…west winds gusted to 50 mph at Stapleton Airport.
In 1998…intense…but localized…downslope high winds developed near Wondervu in the foothills southwest of Boulder. Winds frequently gusted to 100 mph with a highest reported wind gust to 104 mph. West winds gusted to only 43 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1954…a major storm dumped heavy snow across metro Denver. Snowfall totaled 8.6 inches at Stapleton Airport. The storm produced the heaviest snowfall of the calendar year and was the only measurable snowfall in December.
In 1987…a snowstorm stalled in northeastern Colorado…giving metro Denver its worst winter storm in 4 years. Total snowfall from the storm ranged from 12 to 18 inches on the east side…1 to 2 feet in Boulder County…and 2 to 3 feet in western and southern parts of metro Denver. The largest reported snowfall was 42 inches at Intercanyon in the foothills southwest of Denver. Snowfall totaled 14.9 inches at Stapleton International Airport. Winds were light on the 26th…but increased as high as 40 mph on the 27th… Creating near-blizzard conditions and forcing complete closure of Stapleton International Airport for about 8 hours. The strong winds whipped drifts to 5 feet high on the east side of town. All interstate highways leading from Denver were closed on the 27th.
In 1979 a heavy snow storm dumped 6 to 10 inches of snow over the metro area and 15 to 20 inches at Boulder with up to 2 feet in the foothills west of Boulder. Heavy snowfall totaled 6.0 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 21 mph. Most of the snow… 4.8 inches…fell on the 27th.
In 1895…west Chinook winds sustained to 44 mph with gusts to 48 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 52 degrees.
In 1901…an apparent cold front produced sustained north winds to 41 mph with gusts to 48 mph.
In 1957…northwest winds gusting to 52 mph produced some blowing dust across metro Denver.
In 1975…a northwest wind gust to 53 mph was recorded at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1976…a strong pacific cold front moving across metro Denver produced a northwest wind gust to 53 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1990…high winds raked the eastern foothills with a wind gust to 84 mph clocked on Fritz Peak near Rollinsville. The strong northwest winds of 50 to 70 mph whipped newly fallen snow over higher areas into billowy clouds several hundred feet high that could be seen from most locations across metro Denver.
In 1996…another round of high winds developed over portions of the Front Range foothills during the morning hours. Several wind gusts from 70 to 100 mph were reported at Wondervu southwest of Boulder. West-northwest winds gusted to 38 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 2005…a trained weather observer in Georgetown recorded a wind gust to 94 mph. No damage was reported.
In 2007…a winter storm brought heavy snow to portions of the urban corridor and adjacent plains. Storm totals generally ranged from 3 to 7 inches. Locally heavier bands produced up to 10 inches of snow. In the urban corridor…storm totals included: 10 inches…10 miles south-southeast of Buckley AFB and at Castle Pines; 9.5 inches…4 miles south-southeast of Aurora and Kassler; 7.5 inches…2 miles southeast of Highlands Ranch; 7 inches in Aurora and Sedalia; 6.5 inches in Arvada…4 miles east of Denver and Lafayette; 6 inches in Castle Rock and Thornton. A measurement of 5.4 inches was taken at the former Stapleton International Airport. The official total for the month was 20.9 inches; making it the 6th snowiest December on record.
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