The National Weather Service describes the storm that hit Denver on October 24 and 25, 1997 as “one of the worst and deadliest blizzards of the decade.” It would be hard to argue with that assessment as the history making storm dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on the Mile High City and cost tens of millions of dollars.
Below is the entry from our ‘this week in history’ entry from earlier this week that describes this major storm. It truly was amazing.
- H/T to Thornton resident William Scherer for reminding us of this anniversary.
From the National Weather Service:
In 1997…one of the worst and deadliest blizzards of the decade developed over eastern Colorado as deep east to northeast flow associated with a vigorous upper level low pressure system over the four corners…combined with a strong arctic air mass over the central great plains. Snowfall totals across metro Denver ranged from 14 to 31 inches. The heaviest snowfall occurred in the foothills west and southwest of Denver where 2 to 4 feet of snow were measured.
Sustained winds to 40 mph with gusts as high as 60 mph produced zero visibilities and extremely cold wind chill temperatures from 25 below to 40 below zero. Winds whipped the snow into drifts 4 to 10 feet deep.
Several major and interstate highways were closed as travel became impossible. Red Cross shelters were set up for hundreds of travelers who became stranded when they had to abandon their vehicles. Four people died in northeastern Colorado as a result of the blizzard. None of the deaths were in metro Denver.
At Denver International Airport…4 thousand travelers were stranded when the airport was forced to shut down. At least 120 cars were abandoned along Pena Blvd….the only arterial leading into and out of DIA. The blizzard cost air carriers at least 20 million dollars. Thousands of cattle died in the storm over northeastern Colorado…resulting in losses totaling 1.5 million dollars.
Some of the more impressive snowfall totals included: 51 inches at Coal Creek Canyon; 48 inches at Silver Spruce Ranch…near Ward; 42 inches at Intercanyon…in the foothills southwest of Denver; 37 inches at Sedalia; 35 inches at Aspen Springs and Conifer in the foothills west of Denver; 31 inches at Eldorado Springs… Southeast Aurora…and Englewood; and 30 inches on Table Mesa in Boulder. Snowfall totaled 21.9 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport…setting a new 24-hour snowfall record of 19.1 inches for the month. Snowfall totaled only 14 inches at Denver International Airport where north winds gusted to 39 mph on the 24th.
High temperature of only 21 degrees on the 25th equaled the record low maximum for the date first set in 1873. Low temperature of only 3 degrees on the 26th set a new record minimum for the date.