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October 10 to October 16: This week in Denver weather history

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021 5:06am MDT

This Week in Denver Weather History

The farther we get into fall the more we start seeing significant snow events in our look back at the week in history.  None of these is more famous than the “Bronco Blizzard” of 1984 that saw the Mile High City buried under nearly a foot of snow – on live television.

From the National Weather Service:


In 2005…a major winter storm brought heavy…wet snowfall to the Front Range mountains…eastern foothills…portions of metro Denver…and the Palmer Divide.  Snow accumulations ranged from 8 to 26 inches with drifts from 3 to 4 feet in places.  The heaviest snow occurred to the east and southeast of the city…closing most major highways in that area…including I-70 from Denver to Limon.  The Red Cross opened four shelters for people who were stranded along I-70 in eastern Colorado.  Since many trees had not yet shed their leaves…the storm caused significant tree damage.  One woman in Denver was killed when a tree branch… 8 to 10 inches in diameter…snapped under the weight of the heavy…wet snow and struck her as she was shoveling her driveway.  Xcel Energy reported power outages to about 35 thousand customers.  Several incoming flights were delayed at Denver International Airport.  Snow totals included:  16 inches in the foothills near Boulder…12 inches at Genesee and near Golden…22 inches near Watkins…19 inches near Bennett…17 inches southeast of Aurora…14 inches near Parker…13 inches near Castle Rock…12 inches in centennial… 11 inches in Parker…and 10 inches at Denver International Airport and in Littleton.  While many areas of metro Denver received heavy snow…others experienced almost entirely rain. This included west and northwest metro Denver…Boulder…and Longmont.  Rainfall amounts were significant as storm totals ranged between 1.50 and 2.50 inches.  The steady rainfall triggered 3 rockslides in foothills canyons.  Two of the slides occurred on State Highway 119 in Boulder canyon and the longest slide…7 feet in length…on State Highway 74 in Bear Creek Canyon at Idledale.  North winds were sustained to around 23 mph with gusts to 31 mph at Denver International Airport on the 9th.  The high temperature of only 34 degrees on the 10th was a record low maximum for the date.  The low temperature on both days was 32 degrees.


In 1901…an evening thunderstorm produced east winds to 43 mph with gusts to 48 mph.

In 1949…strong winds believed to be the worst in Boulder’s history at the time caused over 100 thousand dollars damage in the city.  Peak winds were estimated to 85 mph at Valmont…just east of Boulder.  High winds also occurred over most of metro Denver and caused damage to trees…window glass…and utility lines.  The damage was most pronounced over the northwest metro area…including north Denver and Lakewood.  Falling tree branches caused damage to parked autos and houses.  Wind gusts to 70 mph were recorded at Stapleton Airport.

In 1964…lightning struck and killed a 13-year-old boy…while he was riding his bicycle along a tree-lined residential street in south Denver.  Apparent microburst winds gusted to 54 mph at Stapleton International Airport.


in 1986…the first significant snowstorm of the season produced 2 to 5 inches of snow over metro Denver with 5 to 10 inches in the foothills west of Denver.  Wondervu recorded the most snow from the storm…13 inches.  The heavy wet snow caused numerous power outages.  The storm was accompanied by strong north winds with gusts to 41 mph recorded on the 10th.  The first snowfall of the season totaled 3.1 inches at Stapleton International Airport with only one inch on the ground due to melting.  The strong cold front accompanying the storm cooled the temperature from a high of 73 degrees on the 10th to a high of only 33 degrees on the 11th…which was a record low maximum for the date.


In 1969…the second heavy snowstorm in less than a week dumped nearly a foot of snow across metro Denver and plunged the area into extremely cold temperatures for so early in the season.  Snowfall totaled 11.0 inches at Stapleton International Airport.  North winds gusting to 26 mph produced drifts up to 2 feet deep.  Temperatures dipped from a high of 52 degrees on the 10th to a record low for the date of 10 degrees on the 12th.  There was additional damage to trees and power and telephone lines from heavy snow accumulations and icing.  Travel was restricted or blocked by drifting snow in both the mountains and on the plains east of Denver.


In 1997…damaging winds ahead of an approaching storm system developed in the foothills and spread across metro Denver. Winds gusted to 88 mph at conifer…71 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research on the mesa in Boulder… And 53 mph at Denver International Airport.  Several trees and street signs were blown down with scattered power outages reported throughout metro Denver. In Arvada…a car window was blown out by a strong wind gust.

In 2013…high winds occurred in and near the Front Range Foothills. Peak gusts included: 85 mph at Rooney Road… 84 mph…2 miles south of Marshall; 82 mph at Rocky Flats National Wind Technology Center and Wondervu; 79 mph at the Mesa Lab at NCAR and 75 mph…3 miles south-southwest of Boulder; 73 mph in Superior and 68 mph in Golden. The wind downed trees and power lines. As a result…scattered electrical outages affected 20000 Xcel Energy customers through the morning hours. The main outages affected the cities of Boulder…Golden and Lakewood. Smaller outages were reported in areas of Gold Hill…Ward…Westminster and Wheat Ridge.


In 1901…an apparent cold front produced northeast winds sustained to 42 mph with gusts to 48 mph on the 11th. General rain changed to snow overnight and totaled 2.0 inches.  This was the first snowfall of the season. Total precipitation was 0.32 inch.


In 1892…apparent post-frontal rainfall totaled 3.33 inches in downtown Denver over the 3 days.  A trace of snow on the 12th melted as it fell.  Rainfall of 2.58 inches on the 12th into the 13th was the greatest 24-hour precipitation ever recorded during the month of October.  Northwest winds were sustained to 48 mph with gusts as high as 55 mph on the 12th.


In 1873…smoke from several very large forest fires was sighted along the mountains.

In 1923…post-frontal rain changed to snow and totaled 4.0 inches.  North winds were sustained to 14 mph.

In 1978…northeast winds gusting to 35 mph with a strong cold front briefly reduced visibility to 2 miles in blowing dust at Stapleton International Airport.


In 2001…overnight peak wind gusts to 82 mph and 70 mph were measured atop Niwot Ridge and Squaw Mountain… Respectively.


In 1969…record breaking extremely cold temperatures for so early in the season occurred.  The high temperature of 26 degrees on the 13th was two degrees lower than the previous record minimum temperature of 28 degrees for the date set in 1885.  The high temperature of 24 degrees on the 12th exceeded the record low temperature (22 degrees set in 1885) for the date by only 2 degrees.

In addition… 3 new record low temperatures for the dates were set.  The low temperature dipped to 10 degrees on the 12th breaking the old record (22 degrees in 1885) by 12 degrees.  On the 13th the mercury plunged to a low of 3 degrees breaking the old record (28 degrees in 1885) by 25 degrees.  On the 14th the temperature reached a minimum of 4 degrees breaking the old record (25 degrees in 1966) by 21 degrees.


In 1990…strong downslope winds stirred up clouds of dust and gravel…rattled windows…and stripped autumn-colored leaves from trees in Boulder.  A wind gust to 78 mph was clocked in southwest Boulder…while a 96 mph gust was recorded in northwest Boulder.  West winds gusted to only 36 mph at Stapleton International Airport.


In 1910…light smoke from nearby forest fires drifted over the city.

In 1966…the first measurable snow of the season caused widespread damage to trees and shrubs.  The heavy wet snow totaled 6.9 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north-northwest winds sustained at 20 to 25 mph and gusting to 45 mph caused much blowing and drifting snow. South and east of Denver…up to a foot of snow fell.  Heavy wet snow accumulations followed by freezing temperatures and strong winds resulted in extensive damage to trees…cars… And utility lines by falling limbs.  A woman was killed by a falling snow laden tree limb in Denver.  Several other people received minor injuries from falling tree limbs.

In 1987…rain drenched metro Denver.  The South Platte canyon area southwest of Denver received the most with 1.11 inches at Kassler and 1.49 inches upstream at Strontia Springs.  At Stapleton International Airport…0.62 inch of rain was measured…northwest winds gusted to 29 mph…and thunder was heard.

In 2007…a new 24-hour record of 2.65 inches of precipitation was set at Denver International Airport for the month of October; breaking the previous record of 2.58 inches set in 1892.


In 1873…smoke from several large forest fires in the mountains made the air very hazy in the city.


In 1952…the first measurable snowfall of the season left 1.2 inches of snow at Stapleton Airport.  North winds gusted to 38 mph.

In 1974…rain changed to snow early in the day…but snowfall totaled only 1.0 inch at Stapleton International Airport where northeast winds gusted to 20 mph.


In 1871…a terrible wind occurred during a snow storm in the foothills above Boulder.  Damage was minor.

In 1878…high winds reached sustained speeds of 60 mph at times.

In 1911…post-frontal northwest winds were sustained to 41 mph with gusts to 43 mph.

In 1948…strong winds struck the Boulder area.  Winds averaged 50 mph at Valmont just east of Boulder.  Wind gusts in excess of 60 mph were recorded at the Boulder airport.  Wind gusts to 40 mph briefly reduced the visibility to 1 1/2 miles in blowing dust at Stapleton Airport.

In 1980…a rare October tornado touched down in Boulder… Damaging a vocational training building and throwing three nearby cars together damaging them extensively.  A mile and half away several camper vehicles were thrown 200 feet. The storm also produced 1 inch diameter hail in the Boulder area.


In 1928…a thunderstorm produced hail shortly after midnight on the 15th.  Rain changed to snow by evening.  Through the afternoon of the 16th…the heavy snowfall totaled 7.3 inches in the city.  North winds were sustained to 23 mph on the 15th.

In 1984…the heaviest October snowstorm in several years hit eastern Colorado with a vengeance.  The storm was known as the “bronco blizzard” since it occurred during a nationally televised Monday Night Football game in Denver.  One to two feet of snow fell near the foothills in west metro Denver with 2 to 3 feet in the foothills.  Wind gusts up to 55 mph whipped the snow into drifts as high as 4 feet. The storm closed schools…roads…and airports.  I-70 was closed both east and west of Denver.  I-25 was closed south to Colorado Springs.  Flights were delayed for several hours at Stapleton International Airport.  Power outages were widespread.  Snowfall totaled 9.2 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusting as high as 40 mph caused frequent surface visibilities of 1/4 to 1/2 mile in moderate to heavy snow and blowing snow overnight.  The high temperature of only 35 degrees on the 15th was a record low maximum for the date.


In 1989…an autumn snowstorm hit metro Denver with 2 to 6 inches of snow.  Snowfall totaled 4.4 inches at Stapleton International Airport where the maximum snow depth on the ground was only 3 inches due to melting and north winds gusted to 25 mph on the 15th.  The heavy wet snow caused leafy branches to sag onto power lines…resulting in a number of power outages.  Five thousand homes were blacked out in Boulder on the 16th.  Up to a foot of snow fell in the higher foothills with 19 inches recorded at Echo Lake.


In 1878…high winds reached sustained speeds of 60 mph.

In 1998…one of the costliest hail storms to ever hit metro Denver caused an estimated total of 87.8 million dollars in damage to homes…commercial buildings…and motor vehicles. At the time the storm was ranked as the 7th costliest ever. The hailstorm…rare for so late in the season…began over portions of Arvada…Wheat Ridge…and northwest Denver where mostly pea sized hail accumulated up to a depth of 6 inches near I-70.  Several accidents were attributed… At least in part…to the hailstorm.  Snowplows had to be called out to clear several city streets.  The storm intensified as it moved to the east…into the Denver and Aurora areas.  Large hail…up to 2.00 inches in diameter pounded east and southeast metro Denver.  Two inch diameter hail fell in the city of Denver and at Buckley Field.  Hail as large as 1 1/2 inches was measured in south Denver with 1 inch diameter hail in northern Aurora.

In 1999…upslope conditions produced snow across metro Denver with heavy amounts in the nearby foothills.  Snowfall totals included:  9 inches at Eldorado Springs; 8 inches at Genesee… Golden Gate Canyon…Littleton and near Morrison; 7 inches near Nederland; and 6 inches in Louisville.  Snowfall totaled 3.6 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.


In 1990…strong downslope winds raked the eastern foothills. Wind gusts from 60 to 75 mph were common.  Strong winds in metro Denver resulted in wave damage to a dock used to moor several private sail boats at Cheery Creek Reservoir. Damage was confined to the dock and two anchor cables. A northwest wind gust to 43 mph was recorded at Stapleton International Airport.

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