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November 15 to November 21: This week in Denver weather history

Sunday, November 15th, 2020 4:35am MST

This Week in Denver Weather History

Any week in Denver weather history is filled with numerous notable weather events and this week is no different.  We have everything from major snowstorms to damaging winds and much more.  However, one item is particularly notable and historic.  It was on the 20th of November in 1871 that the first, official weather observation took place in Denver.  Henry Fenton, Observer Sergeant of the United States Army Signal Service, made the report at 5:43 am.  The office was located on the 2nd floor of a building at the corner of Larimer and G Streets, now 16th Street.  Scroll down to see what the report said.

From the National Weather Service:

From the 12th to the 15th:

In 1909…light snowfall totaled 6.7 inches in downtown Denver over the 4 days.  This was the first measurable snowfall of the season.  Northeast winds were sustained to 15 mph on the 12th.

From the 14th to the 15th:

In 1917…overnight rainfall was 0.03 inch.  This was the only measurable precipitation of the month…making it the 5th driest November on record.

In 1985…3 to 6 inches of snow fell across metro Denver. Snowfall totaled 3.8 inches at Stapleton International Airport where northeast winds gusted to only 13 mph.

In 2005…a winter storm that brought heavy snow to the mountains also spread heavy snow into the foothills to the west of Denver.  Snowfall totals included:  14 inches at Aspen Springs…13 inches near Pinecliffe…and 12 inches near Nederland.  Interstate 70 along with U.S. Highway 40 had to be closed near Idaho Springs due to snow…poor visibility in blowing snow…numerous accidents…and an increased avalanche danger.  High winds were recorded in the foothills on the 14th.  Winds gusted to 89 mph at Georgetown and to 91 mph on Sugarloaf Mountain west of Boulder.  Strong microburst winds associated with a dissipating rain shower gusted to 61 mph at Denver International Airport on the 14th.

In 2009…a storm system produced heavy snow over parts of Front Range foothills…urban corridor and Palmer Divide. Storms totals in the Front Range foothills included: 13.5 inches…6 miles southwest of Evergreen and near Genesee; 13 inches…3 miles northwest of Idledale; 12 inches…3 miles north of Conifer and near Kittredge; 11 inches…12 miles southwest of Boulder and 3 miles southeast of Indian Hills and at Strontia Springs dam; 10 inches near Bailey…Bergen Park and Crow Hill; 9.5 inches near Blackhawk and 4 miles east-northeast of Nederland. Across the urban corridor and Palmer Divide storm totals included: 12 inches at Highlands Ranch…11 inches…5 miles south-southwest of Arapahoe Park and Louviers; 10 inches…4 miles south of Denver; 9 inches near Englewood…Lakewood… And Wheat Ridge; 8 inches at Aurora and 3 miles south-southwest of Castle Pines; 7.5 inches…3 miles southeast of Denver; with 7 inches 2 miles north-northeast of Commerce City. At Denver International Airport…7.3 inches of snowfall was observed.

From the 14th to the 18th:

In 1964…the first measurable snowfall of the season totaled 6.0 inches at Stapleton International Airport where northeast winds gusted to 32 mph on the 14th. Most of the snow…4.2 inches…fell on the 14th.  This was the only measurable snow of the month.

On the 15th:

In 1902…4.0 inches of snow fell over downtown Denver. This was the only measurable snow of the month. Northeast winds were sustained to 18 mph with gusts to 20 mph.

In 1906…strong winds howled and roared across Boulder… Causing several thousand dollars in damage.  The strong winds caused one fatality and minor injuries to others. West winds were sustained to 46 mph in downtown Denver where the strong Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 74 degrees.

In 1944…the low temperature dipped to 32 degrees.  This is the latest date of the first freeze in Denver.

In 1949…a trace of rain fell.  Another trace of rain on the 11th was the only precipitation of the month…making the month one of the driest Novembers on record and the least snowiest with no snow.  This was the first November since 1882 without snow.

In 1960…strong winds caused 2 thousand dollars damage to a new school building in Boulder where wind gusts were estimated to 70 mph.  Wind gusts to 40 mph were recorded in downtown Denver.  Damage occurred to utility lines…signs… And trees.  Northwest winds gusted to 44 mph at Stapleton Airport.

In 1986…strong Chinook winds howled over the Front Range foothills.  The highest wind gust…81 mph…was recorded at Table Mesa in Boulder.  West winds gusted to 31 mph at Stapleton International Airport.

In 1987…the first measurable snow of the season was also a major snowstorm.  The snow combined with strong winds to close I-70 east of Denver and I-25 to Colorado Springs. Snow accumulations ranged from 6 to 9 inches across metro Denver with 10 to 20 inches in the foothills.  At Stapleton International Airport…6.1 inches of snow fell and north winds gusted to 47 mph reducing the visibility to as low as 1/8 mile in heavy snow.  Strong north winds at 20 to 30 mph with frequent gusts to 40 mph and temperatures hovering around 30 degrees plunged wind chill temperatures to 5 below zero.

In 1988…the season’s first snow storm hit metro Denver. The storm dumped 2 to 5 inches of snow…which caused numerous traffic snarls and accidents.  North wind gusts to 43 mph caused some blowing snow.  Snowfall totaled 2.5 inches at Stapleton International Airport.  This was the latest first snow of the season.  No traces of snow had occurred earlier in the season.

In 2010…the combination of light snow…wind… Black ice and careless driving resulted in a 34-vehicle crash along Interstate 25 north of Monument. Five tractor-trailers were involved in the pileup. Although there were no fatalities… 18 people were seriously injured and taken to nearby hospitals. The northbound lanes of I-25 were closed for several hours…snarling the traffic between Denver and Colorado Springs.

From the 15th to the 16th:

In 1894…winds behind an apparent strong cold front were sustained to 60 mph with gusts to 75 mph on the 15th. Snowfall totaled 2.6 inches in the city.  Temperatures plunged from a high of 72 degrees on the 15th to a low of only 5 degrees on the 16th.  The high temperature on the 16th was 24 degrees…which occurred shortly after midnight.

In 1996…around a foot of new snow fell in the foothills west of Denver with 3 to 6 inches at lower elevations across metro Denver.  Some of the snowfall totals included:  15 inches at Georgetown…12 inches at Idaho Springs…10 inches at Chief Hosa…and 9 inches in Coal Creek Canyon.  Snowfall totaled 2.9 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.  Northeast winds gusted to 23 mph at Denver International Airport on the 16th.

From the 15th to the 17th:

In 1991…a strong winter storm dumped heavy snow over metro Denver.  Snowfall amounts totaled 15 inches at Castle Rock and conifer…14 inches at Morrison and Parker…12 inches in southeast Aurora…and 11.6 inches at Stapleton International Airport.  Winds were light with the storm.

On the 16th:

In 1899…a trace of rain fell in the city.  This…together with a trace of precipitation on the 21st and 23rd…was the only precipitation of the month…making the month the driest on record.  The record was equaled in November of 1901 and 1949.

In 1926…rain changed to snow behind a cold front and totaled 2.0 inches.  North winds were sustained to 48 mph with gusts as high as 54 mph.

In 1930…strong winds occurred in Boulder causing minor damage.  At Valmont just east of Boulder…winds gusted to 52 mph.  West winds were sustained to 37 mph with gusts to 46 mph in downtown Denver.

In 1948…a west-northwest wind gust to 50 mph was recorded at Stapleton Airport.

From the 16th to the 18th:

In 1921…heavy snowfall totaled 6.5 inches over downtown Denver.  This was the only measurable snow of the month. East winds were sustained to 14 mph on the 17th.

From the 16th to the 17th:

In 2010…the combination of heavy snow and strong winds produced dangerous driving conditions in the high country. Blizzard conditions forced the closure of U.S. Highway 6 at Loveland pass and U.S. Highway 40 at Berthoud Pass.  Blowing and drifting snow forced the closure of a 65-mile stretch of Interstate 70…west of Idaho Springs.  Peak wind gusts included:  68 mph atop Niwot Ridge…55 mph near Blackhawk and Gunsight…and 52 mph at Berthoud Pass.  Storm totals in the ski areas west of Denver ranged from 12 to 21 inches. Northwest winds gusted to 55 mph at Denver International Airport on the 16th.

On the 17th:

In 1948…a dry vigorous cold front accompanied by north winds gusting to 60 mph produced extensive blowing dust…which briefly reduced the visibility to 1/2 mile at Stapleton Airport.

In 1993…a wind gust to 70 mph was recorded atop Squaw Mountain near Idaho Springs.

In 1994…winds gusted to 66 mph in Boulder and to 63 mph on rocky flats south of Boulder.  West winds gusted to 49 mph at Stapleton International Airport.

In 2000…snow fell in the foothills west of Denver…mainly south of the I-70 corridor.  Snowfall totals included: 8.5 inches…7 miles south of Tiny Town; 6 inches at Genesee; and 5 inches…11 miles southwest of Morrison. Only a trace of snow was recorded at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.

In 2016…bands of moderate to heavy snow fell along the Interstate 70 Corridor as strong fast moving storm system moved across Colorado. Wet roads quickly became icy and snowpacked. A 20-vehicle crash involving semis kept both directions of I-70 closed near Evergreen for a couple of hours. Storm totals included: 11.5 inches…4.5 miles south-southeast of Idaho Springs; 8 inches…5 miles west of Evergreen; 7.5 inches near Conifer…with 4 to 7 inches elsewhere. At Denver International Airport…1.7 inches of snowfall was observed.

From the 17th to the 18th:

In 1869…the heaviest wind storm in 5 or 6 years raked the eastern foothills including Boulder…Denver…Georgetown… And Golden.  Some hundreds of dollars in damage occurred in Boulder.

On the 18th:

In 1872…fresh west winds contributed to the relative humidity dipping to zero at 2:43 pm.  The maximum temperature was 54 degrees.

In 1907…heavy snowfall totaled 6.0 inches over downtown Denver.  Snow fell all day.  North winds were sustained to 19 mph.

In 1915…northwest winds were sustained to 42 mph with gusts as high as 48 mph.  It was windy most of the day.

In 1996…high winds struck the foothills west of Denver. Wind gusts ranged from 70 to 75 mph.  A few power lines were downed…but no major outages were reported.

In 1998…strong downslope winds developed during the morning.  Wind gusts reached a peak of 72 mph at Jefferson County airport near Broomfield.  West winds gusted to 41 mph at Denver International Airport.

In 1999…high winds developed in and near the Front Range foothills.  The strong winds downed power lines…which sparked several small brush fires.  In Broomfield… Scaffolding was damaged at the Wadsworth Recreation Center…while flying rocks broke several windows at a local bank building.  Peak wind gusts included:  91 mph atop Blue Mountain near Wondervu…88 mph atop the Gamow Tower on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder… 83 mph at Jefferson County airport…81 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesa Lab above Boulder…and 80 mph at Wondervu.  West-northwest winds gusted to 48 mph at Denver International Airport.

From the 18th to the 19th:

In 1975…snowfall totaled only 5.5 inches and north winds gusted to 35 mph causing some blowing snow at Stapleton International Airport…while a major blizzard struck southeastern Colorado.

In 1985…4 to 7 inches of snow fell across metro Denver. Snowfall totaled 4.4 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 23 mph.

In 1991…another strong winter storm produced heavy snow over metro Denver.  Snowfall totaled 9.5 inches at Stapleton International Airport with 9 inches at Parker… And 8 inches in southeast Denver…Morrison…and wheat ridge.  This second storm brought the 5 day (15th-19th) snowfall total at Stapleton International Airport to 21.1 inches.  The greatest depth of snow on the ground was 13 inches on the morning of the 19th.  The adverse effects of the two storms were diminished by the lack of significant winds.

From the 18th to the 20th:

In 1930…a major storm dumped a total of 13.6 inches of snowfall over downtown Denver.  Most of the snow…9.4 inches…fell on the 19th when north winds were sustained to 23 mph.  This was the only measurable snow of the month.  Temperatures hovered in the 20’s and lower 30’s.

In 1956…an intense winter storm dumped 12.8 inches of snowfall on metro Denver.  Strong north-northeast winds gusting to 33 mph at Stapleton Airport frequently reduced the visibility to 1/2 mile in snow and blowing snow on the 19th.  Most of the snowfall…10.7 inches…occurred on the 19th.

On the 19th:

In 1931…the first measurable snow of the season totaled only 1.0 inch in the city.

In 1977…near-blizzard conditions caused some traffic accident injuries across metro Denver.  Only 1.3 inches of snow fell at Stapleton International Airport where northeast winds gusted to 28 mph.

From the 19th to the 21st:

In 1979…a heavy snowstorm buried most of Colorado under at least a foot of snow.  Snowfall at Stapleton International Airport totaled 17.7 inches…the greatest snow depth since 1946.  Winds to 60 mph produced 5-foot drifts paralyzing the city as temperatures hovered in the 20’s.  While small airports closed…Stapleton remained open…but with long delays that snarled Thanksgiving holiday traffic.  Schools and businesses closed and postal deliveries were delayed. Almost all major highways leading out of Denver were closed to traffic for periods of time on the 20th and 21st.  Most of the snow…13.5 inches…fell on the 20th.  At Stapleton International Airport…north winds gusted to 35 mph on the 20th and to 38 mph on the 21st.

On the 20th:

In 1871…the first official weather observation in Denver… Was taken by Henry Fenton…Observer Sergeant of the United States Army Signal Service at 5:43 am.  The office was located on the 2nd floor of a building at the corner of Larimer and G Streets…now 16th Street.  The daily weather journal hand written entry for the day follows:  “snow fell heavily during past night.  At 5:43 am it was snowing light and continued until 8 am.  Wind during snow storm gentle and a little west of south…and continued there during the remainder of the day.  Sky clear after 8 am. Very cold weather prevailed all day and night.  Thermometer at 9:43 pm 14 degrees.  Rain gauge and self-registering thermometer not in position owing to severe storm last week.  Barometer falling during the morning and rising rapidly at night.”

In 1894…northwest Chinook winds sustained to 40 mph with gusts to 45 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 58 degrees in the city.

In 1909…steady and very strong winds in Boulder caused 3 thousand dollars in damage.

In 1915…post-frontal northeast winds sustained to 40 mph with gusts as high as 42 mph produced only a trace of snow.  It was windy most of the day.

In 1923…west winds were sustained to 42 mph with gusts to 44 mph before daybreak.  The strong winds persisted in the city for only about 3 hours.

In 1993…a wind gust to 72 mph was recorded at Table Mesa in southwest Boulder.

In 1994…winds gusted to 77 mph atop Squaw Mountain west of Denver.  West winds gusted to 40 mph at Stapleton International Airport.

From the 20th to the 21st:

In 1898…snowfall totaled 4.0 inches in downtown Denver. Northeast winds were sustained to 48 mph with gusts as high as 60 mph behind an apparent cold front on the 20th… When temperatures plunged from a high of 66 degrees to a low of 9 degrees.  On the 21st the high was only 24 degrees and the low was 2 degrees.

In 1970…a wind gust to 94 mph was recorded at gold hill in the foothills west of Boulder.  Strong winds also swept across metro Denver.  Wind gusts reached 59 mph in downtown Boulder…while at Stapleton International Airport west- northwest winds gusted to 43 mph on the 21st.  Damage was minor.

In 1992…a large Canadian air mass moved into the state at the same time an upper level storm system approached from the west.  The combination of cold air at the surface and very moist air aloft produced heavy snow across the entire state.  Snowfall totaled 6.3 inches at Stapleton International Airport…where north winds gusted to 23 mph on the 20th.  Snow was heavier in the foothills…with 14 inches at Wondervu…13 inches at Aspen Springs…Conifer… Boulder…and Gross Reservoir…8 inches at Rollinsville… And 10 inches at Golden gate canyon and Morrison.

In 2007…a storm system brought moderate to heavy snowfall to portions of the urban corridor.  Storm totals included: 7 inches…3 miles south-southeast of Fort Collins…with 6 inches in Boulder and at Horsetooth Inlet Bay.  Elsewhere… Storm totals ranged from 2 to 5 inches.  Snowfall totaled 2.0 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.

On the 21st:

In 1891…northwest winds were sustained to 50 mph with gusts to 60 mph.

In 1899…a trace of snow fell in the city.  This…together with a trace of precipitation on the 16th and 23rd…was the only precipitation of the month…making the month the driest on record.  The record was equaled in November of 1901 and 1949.  This trace of snow along with a trace of snow on the 23rd was the only snow of the month…ranking the month the 2nd least snowiest on record.  This record was equaled in November of 1884…1901…1905…1917…and 1939.

In 1900…west winds were sustained to 46 mph with gusts to 54 mph.  The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 64 degrees.

In 1934…the latest date for the first measurable snow of the season occurred.  This was not the first snow of the season… Because traces of snow had fallen earlier in September. Snowfall totaled only 1.0 inch over downtown Denver.

In 1962…strong west-northwest Chinook winds gusted to 53 mph at Stapleton Airport.

In 1998…an intense mountain wave allowed for high winds to develop in the foothills of Boulder County.  Wind gusts as high as 77 mph were measured 3 miles east- northeast of Nederland.

From the 21st to the 22nd:

In 1905…a trace of snow fell on both days in downtown Denver.  This was the only snow of the month…ranking the month along with other Novembers…the 2nd least snowiest on record.

In 1999…the first significant snowfall of the season struck metro Denver.  Snowfall totals included:  16 inches near Bailey; 13 inches near Evergreen; 12 inches at north turkey creek…Genesee…near Morrison…and near Sedalia; 11 inches near Conifer and in Evergreen; 10 inches in Louisville; 9 inches in Brighton…Broomfield…and Denver; and 8 inches at Arvada…Castle Rock…and Eldorado Springs.  Snowfall totaled 8.4 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.

In 2003…heavy snow fell in and near the foothills of Boulder County.  Snowfall totaled 10.5 inches in Eldorado Springs. Across the city…snowfall was lighter with 2.8 inches measured at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport on the 22nd.  North winds gusted to 32 mph at Denver International Airport on the 22nd.

From the 21st to the 23rd:

In 1918…post-frontal snowfall totaled 5.9 inches in downtown Denver.  Most of the snow…5.3 inches…fell on the 22nd. North winds were sustained to 20 mph on the 21st.

In 1931…a major storm dumped a total of 13.2 inches of snowfall over downtown Denver.  Most of the snow…11.4 inches…fell on the 21st.  A very cold air mass settled over the city after the heavy snow on the 21st.  After a low temperature of zero…the temperature climbed to a high of only 5 degrees on the 22nd…a record low maximum for the date.

From the 21st to the 25th:

In 1952…snowfall of 6.2 inches was measured at Stapleton Airport where northeast winds gusted to 17 mph on the 21st.

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