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May 20 to May 26 – This Week in Denver Weather History

Monday, May 21st, 2012 10:17am MDT
This Week In Denver Weather History

May 20 to May 26 - This Week in Denver Weather History

This week marks the four year anniversary of the infamous Windsor tornado but it is not the only noteworthy weather event to have occurred during this week in Denver weather history.

From the National Weather Service:

18-20

In 1915…3.9 inches of snow fell in the city. The estimated amount of snow that melted as it fell was 6.2 inches which would have totaled an estimated 10.1 inches of snowfall. Precipitation totaled 1.03 inches. North winds were sustained to 32 mph on the 18th. Low temperatures dipped to 25 degrees on both the 18th and 20th…establishing record minimums for both dates.

In 1988…prolonged heavy rainfall drenched metro Denver. The event began when heavy thunderstorms on the 18th caused some street flooding and power outages…followed by steady rain on the 19th and 20th. Rain amounts across metro Denver totaled 3 to 4 inches. Rainfall totaled 3.71 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 39 mph on the 20th. Four to eight inches of snow fell in the foothills above 7 thousand feet.

19-20

In 1864…a devastating major flash flood occurred on the normally dry and sandy Cherry Creek in Denver. The flood was caused by heavy thunderstorm rainfall and hail over the palmer ridge to the south of the city in both the Cherry Creek and plum creek basins. Nineteen deaths occurred along the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in Denver. The torrent swept cattle and sheep along with large trees and houses before it washing out several bridges…and moving large structures from their foundations. All city records were destroyed when city hall washed away. The Rocky Mountain News building…built on stilts in the middle of the creek…was totally destroyed by the raging waters…which were as deep as 5 feet on the morning of the 20th. Once the flood waters receded…much sand and gravel was left behind. Property damage from the flood was estimated at nearly one million dollars. This was the first major flood of record in the city.

20

In 1874…after a light late afternoon shower…3 rainbows were visible in the eastern sky. The two upper bows were of the usual colors. The lower bow had a deep violet center with a faint yellow and white rim.

In 1892…apparent post-frontal north winds were sustained to 40 mph with gusts to 48 mph. A trace of snow was the last snowfall of the season.

In 1899…snow pellets from 1/4 to 3/8 inch in diameter fell from a thundershower during the late afternoon. West winds were sustained to 42 mph with gusts as high as 48 mph.

In 1904…southeast winds were sustained to 40 mph with an extreme velocity of 42 mph produced by a thunderstorm.

In 1961…a tornado tore through central Douglas County…1 1/2 miles north of Castle Rock. The storm struck 2 ranches and the property of a drilling company. A car on the highway was lifted off the road and slammed into a truck…injuring the two occupants.

In 1983…heavy rain fell in Aurora with 1.00 to 1.50 inches of precipitation. Local flooding occurred in Lakewood.

In 1990…1 inch diameter hail fell at Buckley Field in Aurora. Minor damage was reported to autos…buildings and signs.

In 1995…hail as large as 3/4 inch in diameter fell near Bennett where a funnel cloud was sighted.

In 2001…damaging winds developed behind a vigorous cold front that moved south from Wyoming into metro Denver. High winds…gusting to 58 mph at Denver International Airport…downed trees and power lines and kicked up blowing dust…dirt…and debris…reducing the visibility to near zero at times. The poor visibility caused a multi-vehicle accident along U.S. Highway 85 north of Fort Lupton. Six people were treated for minor injuries. Several vehicles… Including semi-trailers…were blown off I-70 east of Denver. About 32 thousand Xcel Energy customers in metro Denver were without electricity for up to 2 hours. At least a dozen incoming flights at Denver International Airport were diverted to other airports. All departing flights were grounded for at least an hour. At Southwest Plaza…shoppers were evacuated as rocks holding a tarp on a portion of a roof under repair toppled into the mall. After the passage of the cold front…temperatures plunged from the lower 70’s to the mid 30’s in one hour as light snow developed. Heavy snow developed in the foothills during the evening. Peak wind reports included 68 mph near Parker and 63 mph near Sedalia. Snowfall totals included: 7 inches near Blackhawk… At Ken Caryl Ranch…and near Sedalia; 6 inches in Coal Creek Canyon…at Eldorado Springs…and atop Lookout Mountain; 5 inches at Chief Hosa…in Louisville…Rollinsville…and Wheat Ridge; and 4 inches in Aurora…Bailey…Parker…Castle Rock and near Morrison. Low temperature of 31 degrees during the early morning of the 21st equaled the record low for the date last set in 1931.

In 2004…severe thunderstorms produced hail as large as 1.25 inches near Ft. Lupton and hail to 1.50 inches 10 miles north of Ft. Lupton.

20-21

In 1891…heavy rain was mixed with snow at times and totaled 2.02 inches in the city. Snowfall was 1.0 inch. Northeast winds gusted to 28 mph on the 20th.

20-22

In 1959…a three-day rain caused some flooding in metro Denver where rain totaled 1.68 inches at Stapleton Airport. Showers…accompanied by hail near Brighton…caused some damage to truck crops. Heavy snow in the foothills caused damage to power and telephone lines.

20-27

In 2002…lightning sparked a wildfire near Deckers. Extremely dry conditions and very strong winds the following day allowed the fire…known as the Schoonover…to consume 3850 acres before it could be contained. Thirteen structures were destroyed…including 4 homes…resulting in 2.2 million dollars in damage.

21

In 1874…an extensive fire at central city in the mountains to the west of Denver produced large columns of smoke that were visible from the city.

In the afternoon…the smoke and fire produced a dark inky black convective cloud…which spread over the city and produced brief strong and gusty winds along with a few sprinkles of rain.

In 1880…west winds increased to a sustained velocity of 40 mph during the afternoon.

In 1893…north winds were sustained to 48 mph.

In 1914…a severe thunderstorm was attended by hail…excessive rainfall which totaled 1.94 inches…and an unusual amount of vivid lightning. The heavy rainfall of 0.83 inch in 15 minutes produced flooding…which caused considerable damage to bottom lands in eastern and southern parts of the city. Many garden tracts and cellars were flooded. Southwest winds were sustained to 29 mph with gusts to 34 mph.

In 1935…no precipitation occurred…making this one of only two days without precipitation during the entire month. The other day was the 10th. Precipitation totaled 4.95 inches for the month.

In 1952…a tornado produced a high column of dust and dirt over northwest Denver. No damage was reported.

In 1988…a microburst wind gust to 52 mph was recorded at Stapleton International Airport.

In 2002…very strong winds occurred over metro Denver and northeastern Colorado as a developing surface low pressure center intensified. Trees and branches snapped…downing power lines across parts of metro Denver. About 20 thousand residents lost electricity. The strong winds produced much blowing dust and dirt especially to the northeast of metro Denver. Winds gusted to 61 mph at Parker. South winds gusted to 58 mph at Denver International Airport.

In 2006…a large dust devil formed near Quincy Reservoir in south Aurora. The tall column resembling a tornado or smoke plume extended upward into small high-based cumulus clouds and was visible for miles across southern Aurora and eastern centennial. No damage was reported.

21-22

In 1878…overnight heavy rains of cloudburst intensity on the palmer divide to the south of the city caused flash flooding on Cherry Creek in Denver…which resulted in 2 deaths. A wall of water swept through the city between 2:00 am and 3:00 am on the morning of the 22nd. The flood was so sudden and unexpected that homes along the creek in the city were submerged in water knee deep before the slumbering occupants knew anything about it. By daybreak the banks on both sides of the creek were lined by residents viewing the destruction caused by the raging waters in such a short time. Seven bridges across the creek were destroyed in the city. Damage to private and city property was estimated between 30 and 50 thousand dollars. Quite a number of cattle and sheep were killed along the reach of the creek. Only 0.01 inch of rain fell in the city on the 21st with a trace of rain on the 22nd. Flash flooding also occurred on Kiowa Creek near Bennett on the night of the 21st when the flood waters washed out the Kansas Pacific Railroad bridge. An east bound freight train plunged into the turbulent waters killing the three crewmen. The locomotive was completely buried in the sand and never found to this day!

21-23

In 1876…snow changed to heavy rain over the city…resulting in widespread flooding along Cherry Creek and the South Platte River…nearly as great as the flash flood of May 19-20…1864. However…damage was greater because the city had grown much larger and there were more bridges for the flood waters to destroy. Precipitation in the city totaled 6.70 inches from 10:00 pm on the 21st through 3:00 am on the 23rd. The greatest precipitation ever recorded in Denver in 24 hours…6.53 inches…occurred on the 21st and 22nd. Small buildings and bridges along Cherry Creek were washed away by the flood waters. Bridges over the South Platte River were damaged. The city irrigation ditch was damaged and rendered unfit for service. Strong winds at speeds of 30 to 40 mph drove the heavy rain through brick walls 12 to 16 inches thick. Many sheep and cattle were either killed by lightning or drowned…including some 100 head of cattle in Jefferson County alone. There was immense damage to railroad tracks…especially the Kansas Pacific line to the east of the city. The Colorado Central suffered estimated damage of 10 to 15 thousand dollars. In addition…the heavy rain caused extensive flooding on soda and bear creeks in the foothills. Flooding along Boulder Creek inundated farm and pasture land in the Boulder valley and damaged a few bridges. Rail travel had to be suspended in the area for several days.

22

In 1876…the most precipitation in Denver on any calendar day…6.50 inches…occurred.

In 1901…northeast winds were sustained to 41 mph with gusts to 45 mph.

In 1903…west winds were sustained to 45 mph with gusts to 55 mph from an apparent microburst…which produced a trace of rain.

In 1976…the public reported 3/4 inch diameter hail and wind gusts to 53 mph near Littleton.

In 1987…golf ball size hail fell in the Lorretto Heights area of south metro Denver.

In 1991…a tornado touched down briefly in Castle Rock. No injuries were reported.

In 1993…an off duty National Weather Service employee reported hail up to golf ball size just west of the city of Denver in Jefferson County. Thunderstorm wind gusts reached 58 mph at Jefferson County Airport near Broomfield and 33 mph at Stapleton International Airport.

In 1996…a severe thunderstorm pummeled northwest and northern sections of metro Denver with large hail ranging in size from 3/4 to 2 inches in diameter. The cities of Arvada and Westminster were the hardest hit. The insurance industry estimated 60 million dollars in damage to homes and personal property and 62 million dollars in damage to automobiles…for a total of 122 million dollars in insured losses. This estimate also included the cities of Golden… Thornton…and wheat ridge. This was the fourth worst hailstorm to hit metro Denver in the last 10 years.

In 1998…large hail fell across north metro Denver. Hail as large as 1 1/2 inches in diameter was measured in Broomfield and Hudson. Hail to 1 1/4 inches fell in Roggen. Hail to 1 inch fell in Brighton…near Keenesburg… In Watkins…and in the city of Denver. Lightning ignited a house fire in Ft. Lupton. A warehouse worker in Denver was injured when he was knocked off a loading dock by a lightning bolt. The bolt skipped off a nearby radio tower and struck him in the arm. He was treated for numbness in his right arm and released.

In 1999…severe thunderstorms produced 7/8 inch diameter hail over the city of Denver…with one inch diameter hail reported in Aurora…and 3/4 inch hail near Watkins.

In 2006…a lightning strike sparked a fire and damaged the roof of a recreation center in Evergreen. The fire spread into some brush and consumed about one quarter acre before it was extinguished. Severe thunderstorms produced strong wind gusts across portions of metro Denver. Winds gusted to 72 mph in Georgetown…62 mph near Parker and Bennett… 60 mph in Castle Rock…and 59 mph in Longmont. The winds caused no reportable damage. A thunderstorm produced southwest wind gusts to 52 mph at Denver International Airport.

In 2008…a powerful tornado swept north-northwestward across Weld County…carving a path of destruction nearly 39 miles in length. The tornado…up to one-mile wide at times… Initially touched down northeast of Platteville and finally lifted 6 miles west-northwest of Wellington. A tornado assessment in the aftermath of the tornado revealed extensive areas of damage. On the enhanced Fujita scale… There were pockets of ef3 damage near the Missile Silo Park Campground and to businesses and a home in eastern Windsor. Farmers reported extensive damage to crops and irrigation equipment. There was one fatality and 78 injuries… Ranging from broken bones to minor cuts and lacerations. One man was killed when he tried to escape a trailer park in his motor home. Tractor trailers were flipped along U.S. Highway 85…and over 200 power poles were snapped or blown down. Approximately 60000 people were left without electricity. The tornado overturned 15 railroad cars and destroyed a lumber car. The tornado also flattened the main feedlot in Windsor and destroyed a dairy barn. Most of the 400 cows were killed in the tornado or destroyed later. The thunderstorm also produced hail up to the size of baseballs. Another tornado from a separate thunderstorm… Rated an EF1…briefly touched down near Dacono and destroyed 5 buildings. The tornado overturned a five-wheel trailer and injured a man sitting inside. Preliminary estimates from FEMA indicated 850 homes were damaged…and nearly 300 homes were significantly damaged or destroyed. The Poudre Valley Rural Electric associated reported $1 million of damage to electric transmission lines. Privately insured damages totaled $147 million…making it the state’s 4th costliest disaster. Large hail up to 1 1/2 inches in diameter…was reported in the vicinities of Golden and Longmont.

22-23

In 1933…high winds and gales overnight caused considerable damage in and near the city. Much greenhouse glass was broken…which caused damage to sheltered plants. Great numbers of plants growing in the open were damaged or killed by wind-driven sand and soil. Fields were eroded by the wind and a few trees were uprooted. West winds were sustained to 38 mph with gusts as high as 65 mph in downtown Denver on the 22nd.

23

In 1916…southeast winds were sustained to 43 mph with gusts as high as 52 mph. The winds were strong for several hours during the afternoon.

In 1965…thunderstorm outflow wind gusts to 59 mph were recorded at Stapleton International Airport.

In 1987…slow moving thunderstorms bombarded metro Denver. One inch diameter hail was reported in south central Denver. Torrential rain caused widespread street flooding… Stalling traffic throughout the area. Rainfall totaled 2.10 inches in just 25 minutes in extreme southeast Aurora. Many other locations in Aurora and east Denver reported 1 to 1 1/2 inches of rain in about 30 minutes. Thunderstorm rainfall totaled 1.33 inches at Stapleton International Airport where 1/4 inch diameter hail was measured and north winds gusted to 40 mph. A man was slightly injured by lightning near Stapleton International Airport. Lightning also started a fire that severely damaged a house in Aurora.

In 1990…a microburst wind gust to 52 mph at Stapleton International Airport produced some blowing dust.

In 1991…thunderstorms moving from southwestern sections of metro Denver to the east of Denver produced large hail up to golf ball size. An estimated 5 thousand homes and 8 thousand cars received considerable damage. Early estimates placed damage costs around 60 million dollars. Three funnel clouds were also reported…two by personnel at Buckley Field and the other by a storm spotter. Heavy rain produced street flooding in Aurora where hail accumulated to a depth of 6 inches. As the storms moved to the east…golf ball size hail was reported at Strasburg.

In 1997…hail to 3/4 inch diameter fell in Broomfield.

In 2002…a very strong microburst near Strasburg swept a woman into a swirl of dirt and carried her about 150 feet. The woman was in an open field…corralling a yearling horse… When the incident occurred. Fortunately…she received only minor injuries.

23-24

In 2002…a pacific storm system brought much needed snow to the mountains and foothills with a mix of rain and snow on the plains. The most snow fell from central Jefferson County northward. Snow totals included: 13 inches in Coal Creek Canyon…11 inches near Evergreen and atop gold hill… 10 inches near Blackhawk and Conifer and atop Crow Hill… 9 inches near Rollinsville…and 8 inches near Genesee and Golden. Rain was mixed with snow across the city. Precipitation totaled 0.61 inch at Denver International Airport. Snowfall was less than an inch at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. The storm brought unseasonably cold air to metro Denver. Three temperature records were set. Low temperature of 31 degrees on the 23rd was a record minimum for the date…as was the low of 32 degrees on the 24th. The high temperature of only 48 degrees equaled the record low maximum for the date.

24

In 1953…a microburst caused a brief wind gust to 55 mph at Stapleton Airport.

In 1957…walnut size hail…1 1/2 inches in diameter…fell in east Denver. Only 1/4 inch hail was measured at Stapleton Airport.

In 1958…rainfall totaled 1 to 2 inches across metro Denver. Rainfall was only 0.37 inches at Stapleton Airport.

In 1974…a tornado was observed briefly near Watkins. No damage was reported.

In 1980…strong gusty winds of at least 60 mph damaged buildings in parts of Denver. Several buildings were unroofed in Sheridan. The flying debris damaged other structures. Strong microburst winds gusted to 52 mph at Stapleton International Airport.

In 1991…a tornado touched down briefly in open country near Bennett. No damage was reported.

In 1994…weather spotters reported 2 funnel clouds over Aurora and a short-lived waterspout on Cheery Creek Reservoir.

In 1997…hail to 1 inch in diameter fell in Broomfield with 3/4 inch hail measured in Boulder.

In 1998…a tornado struck a wooden hangar at the Aurora Airpark. The hangar collapsed…damaging a car and a single engine plane parked inside. An adjacent steel hangar sustained only minor damage. The tornado moved northeast…hopped I-70…and touched down again in an open field. Earlier…a weak tornado touched down briefly in an open field 10 miles southeast of Buckley Field.

In 2003…severe thunderstorms produced large hail over northern and southern metro Denver. Hail as large as 2 3/4 inches in diameter was measured 10 miles northwest of Hudson and to 2 inches in diameter 10 miles northeast of Fort Lupton. One inch diameter hail fell in Fort Lupton. Hail to 1 inch in diameter fell near Parker and to 3/4 inch near Franktown.

In 2004…severe thunderstorms moved across northwest and north metro Denver. Hail as large as 1 inch in diameter fell in Broomfield and Thornton with 3/4 inch hail measured near Arvada and Hudson and in the city of Denver.

In 2005…severe thunderstorms produced hail as large as 1 inch in diameter in Arvada and the city of Denver.

24-26

in 1996…a late spring snowstorm dumped 4 to 10 inches of snow over the Front Range foothills. Conifer picked up 10 inches of new snow; Aspen Springs…9 inches; and Central City…8 inches. The sticky…heavy snow clung to power lines and pulled tree branches down…causing power outages to about 1200 homes in the Conifer area. It took up to 6 hours to restore power to some residences. Lightning struck a telephone data cabinet in Conifer on the 25th…which knocked out phone service to about 1500 customers. Widespread rain fell across metro Denver… Where rainfall totaled 2.07 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport and 1.66 inches at Denver International Airport where north winds gusted to 24 mph on the 26th.

In 2010…high winds preceding a cold front…swept across the Front Range foothills and urban corridor. In Aurora… The wind damaged the roof of Rangeview High School. In Conifer and Denver…the wind downed trees and power lines and caused several brief outages. The downed power lines also caused several cars to catch fire in the vicinity of 1590 Cook St. in Denver. Peak wind gusts included: 82 mph at Highlands Ranch…67 mph…4 miles east of Franktown and Longmont; 65 mph in Boulder…64 mph in Centennial and Denver International Airport…62 mph near Parker and 60 mph in Arvada.

25

In 1877…lightning killed one person in west Denver and struck several houses. The bolt struck the house of the “home laundry” stunning the occupants and killing a lady who was holding one of her grandchildren in her arms. The child escaped unhurt. The lightning also struck the top of a tree in front of the house and partially peeled the bark off the tree. Lightning struck a church in the Evans addition and another tree in east Denver. Lightning struck the switch room at the telegraph office where the operator saw small balls of lightning pass across the room to the stove. The thunderstorm pelted the city with only pea size hail. Precipitation from the storm totaled 0.40 inch in downtown Denver.

In 1880…light rain all afternoon totaled only 0.24 inch in the city…but was valuable to stockmen and farmers due to the very dry…parched weather conditions on the plains.

In 1965…a tornado was sighted by a pilot 30 miles south southeast of Denver. No damage was reported. Another pilot reported 3/4 inch hail 30 miles east of Denver. The state patrol reported that a man was killed when a fierce gust of wind swept him from the back of a pick-up truck in northwest Douglas County. The man was holding a mattress in the bed of the truck.

In 1974…a microburst wind gust to 53 mph was recorded at Stapleton International Airport. A pilot reported a tornado 20 miles east of Denver.

In 1976…lightning struck a home in Boulder…shattering 2 large trees and damaging a television set.

In 1997…hail as large as 1 3/4 inches in diameter fell near Watkins. Hail to 3/4 inch in diameter fell in Broomfield and near Lochbuie.

In 2000…3/4 inch diameter hail fell at Cheery Creek Reservoir in Aurora. Thunderstorm winds gusted to 51 mph at Denver International Airport where small hail fell.

In 2006…a severe thunderstorm produced an estimated wind gust to 70 mph in Hudson. The strong winds damaged the roof of a home. A thunderstorm produced southwest wind gusts to 54 mph at Denver International Airport.

25-26

In 1950…a major storm dumped 10.0 inches of snowfall downtown and 10.7 inches at Stapleton Airport where northwest winds gusted to 30 mph on the 25th. The storm caused extensive damage to utility wires and trees which were in full leaf. A daily record minimum temperature of 31 degrees occurred on the 25th. This was the coldest temperature on this date in 79 years and for so late in the season.

In 1989…a late season snow storm dropped snow as low as 6 thousand feet along the Front Range. Most places in the foothills had 2 to 5 inches of snow. Overnight rainfall totaled 0.33 inch at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 37 mph on the 25th.

In 1994…lightning struck a television transmitter on Lookout Mountain near Golden and burned out a switcher…which disrupted cable service for 2 hours.

26

In 1897…apparent post-frontal north winds were sustained to 42 mph with gusts as high as 48 mph.

In 1942…the all-time highest recorded temperature in May…95 degrees…occurred.

In 1978…two children were struck and killed by lightning on a junior high school playground in Parker.

In 1987…1 inch diameter hail fell near Boulder and Bennett. The hail was fairly soft and caused no damage.

In 1993…dry thunderstorms produced wind gusts to 81 mph at Jefferson County Airport near Broomfield. Several trees were blown down by the strong winds. Microburst winds gusted to 51 mph at Stapleton International Airport.

In 1995…a woman was injured in Littleton when the car she had just entered was struck by lightning. All of the windows in the car were blown out by the strike. A funnel cloud was sighted near Littleton.

In 2000…a strong microburst wind gust to 92 mph flipped a small airplane on its back and blew a DC-3 loose from its moorings…which allowed it to roll onto a grassy field at Front Range airport near Watkins.

In 2010…severe thunderstorms pounded parts of the urban corridor with very large hail…heavy rain…damaging winds and a tornado. The hail…ranging in size from 1 inch to 2 3/4 inches in diameter…struck Brighton…Commerce City and northeast Denver the hardest. The storms continued to spread destruction to the north and east…impacting Byers…Hudson…Deer Trail and Prospect Valley. The combination of hail and wind stripped the bark and branches from trees. Numerous accidents were reported as the hail accumulated up to a foot deep. Snowplows were called out to clear the roadways. Flash flooding occurred along State Highway 52 between Hudson and Keenesburg…and forcing the closure of the highway. Widespread crop damage was also reported as the area was inundated with up to 18 inches of water. Extensive damage to homes…businesses and automobiles was reported with the damage estimated to be around 70 million dollars. A tornado touched down near Denver International Airport…but did no damage. Lightning struck a child in Commerce City while she was watching television. She suffered minor injuries to her leg. At the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge…a lightning strike killed a bison. At Denver International Airport…only 0.01 inch of rainfall was observed…along with a peak wind gust to 48 mph from the southeast.

26-31

In 1995…a cool period with light morning showers and moderate to heavy afternoon showers and thunderstorms pushed rivers already swollen from mountain snow melt over their banks causing minor flooding. Streams and rivers such as the South Platte and Boulder creek flooded meadowlands…bike paths…roads near streams…and other low lying areas. No significant property damage was reported and crop damage was unknown. Rainfall totaled 1.79 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport and only 1.51 inches at Denver International Airport.

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