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October 18 to October 24: This week in Denver weather history

Sunday, October 18th, 2020 5:44pm MST

This Week in Denver Weather History

This week is an extremely eventful one in Denver weather history with a wide variety of conditions having been experienced in the past. Wind and snow are probably the two most dominant items, none more so than the blizzard that struck 23 years ago on the 24th. That storm ravaged the city, closed the airport and highways and was responsible for four deaths.

From the National Weather Service:

From the 17th to the 19th:

In 1908…a moist…heavy…wet snowfall totaled 13.0 inches in downtown Denver over the 3 days. Rain from early morning on the 17th changed to snow by late afternoon and continued through the late morning of the 19th. Due to temperatures in the 30’s and melting…the most snow on the ground was only 5.0 inches at 6:00 pm on the 18th. Northwest to northeast winds were sustained between 12 and 20 mph during the storm. Precipitation totaled 1.82 inches.

On the 18th:

In 1875…the haze was so dense that the mountains were not visible from downtown Denver for most of the day.

In 1937…a vigorous cold front produced north winds sustained to 32 mph with gusts to 41 mph. Rain and snow totaled 0.16 inch. Post-frontal snowfall of 0.8 inch was the only snowfall of the month.

In 1960…post-frontal upslope rain changed to snow. Snowfall was 2.2 inches at Stapleton Airport where precipitation (rain and melted snow) totaled 1.58 inches.

In 1971…wind gusts to 48 mph were recorded in downtown Boulder. West winds gusted to 30 mph at Stapleton International Airport.

In 1999…heavy snow developed in the foothills west of metro Denver with lesser amounts across the city. Snowfall totals included: 7 inches near Nederland…6 inches in Boulder…and 5 inches at Chief Hosa. Only 1.2 inches of snow were measured at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.

From the 18th to the 23rd:

In 2003…an extended warm spell resulted in 5 new temperature records. The high temperature of 84 degrees on the 18th equaled the record high for the date. High temperatures of 86 degrees on the 19th…83 degrees on the 21st…and 84 degrees on the 22nd were record highs for the dates. Low temperature of 49 degrees on the 23rd was a record high minimum for the date. Low temperatures during the period were in the 40’s and lower 50’s.

On the 19th:

In 1887…northwest winds sustained to 42 mph were recorded in the city.

In 1982…3 to 6 inches of snow fell over northwest metro Denver…including Boulder. Only 1.2 inches of snowfall were recorded at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 35 mph. This was the first measurable snowfall of the season.

From the 19th to the 20th:

In 1990…an early winter storm dumped heavy snow across metro Denver. Snowfall amounts ranged from 4 to 8 inches in the foothills above 6500 feet elevation…4 to 7 inches in the Castle Rock area…and 2 to 5 inches across most of metro Denver and Boulder. Snowfall totaled 3.6 inches at Stapleton International Airport where northwest winds gusting to 48 mph kicked up some blowing dust shortly after a cold frontal passage on the 19th. However… Temperatures were warm enough to keep most roadways wet and slushy at lower elevations.

From the 19th to the 23rd:

In 1906…heavy snowfall totaled 22.7 inches in the city over the 5 days. Rain changed to snow on the evening of the 19th…and snow continued through the late afternoon of the 23rd. The heaviest amount of snowfall…16.0 inches…fell from 8:00 pm on the 20th to 8:00 pm on the 22nd. The most snow on the ground was 13.3 inches on the evening of the 23rd. This was the first snow of the season and the only snow of the month. Winds during the storm were from the north at sustained speeds of 20 to 30 mph each day. Temperatures during the storm were generally in the 20’s.

On the 20th:

In 1878…between 3:00 pm and 4:00 pm wind speeds averaged 48 mph with a maximum 1 minute sustained velocity to 96 mph at both 3:27 pm and 3:48 pm in downtown Denver. This is the highest sustained wind speed ever recorded in the city.

In 1986…a rare late October thunderstorm produced 3/4 inch diameter hail at Centennial Airport. Hail piled up 2 1/2 inches deep…causing some street flooding in south metro Denver.

From the 20th to the 21st:

In 2007…a storm system brought heavy snow to the southern Denver suburbs as well as the Palmer Divide south of Denver. Storm totals included: 7.5 inches near Castle Rock…Lone Tree and Greenwood Village…with 6.5 inches at Elizabeth. Snow drifts up to 2 feet deep were observed 6 miles south-southwest of Elizabeth. In the Denver Stapleton area…2.0 inches of snow was observed.

In 2009…heavy snow developed along the Palmer Divide south and southeast of Denver as a storm system tracked across southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. Storm totals included: 15 inches…15 miles north of Elizabeth…9 inches… 5 miles south-southwest of Arapahoe Park; 8 inches in Highlands Ranch…5 miles south- southeast of Sedalia; 6.5 inches…8 miles southwest of Bennett and 6 inches in Parker. At Denver international… Only 1.5 inches of snowfall was observed.

From the 20th to the 22nd:

In 1936…5.5 inches of snow fell over downtown Denver. Most of the snow…4.5 inches…fell on the 20th.

On the 21st:

In 1920…the rare event of snow from a thunderstorm occurred in the city during the evening. Brilliant flashes of lightning and loud peals of thunder were first noted at 7:35 pm. Light rain began falling at 8:30 pm…and light moist snow began falling a few minutes later. Some soft hail was also seen falling with the rain and snow…but both melted almost as fast as they fell. The hail only continued for a few minutes…and the rain and snow ceased about 9:40 pm. The snowfall was the first to occur in Denver this season. The amount of precipitation at the station measured only 0.01 inch…but heavier amounts were reported from other parts of the city. Snowfall was only a trace.

From the 21st to the 22nd:

In 1978…heavy rain on the 21st changed to snow by daybreak on the 22nd and continued the rest of the day. This was the first measurable snowfall of the season…but totaled only 1.7 inches at Stapleton International Airport where east winds gusted to 29 mph. While only a trace of snow covered the ground…precipitation totaled 1.27 inches.

On the 22nd:

In 1878…winds were sustained to 42 mph.

In 1887…the first measurable snow of the season occurred… Ending the longest snow-free period in Denver…232 days… Since the last snow on march 5th.

In 1947…the first snow of the season totaled only 1.6 inches. Post-frontal north winds caused temperatures to plunge from a high of 60 degrees at midnight to a low of only 30 degrees 24 hours later. This was the only snow of the month.

In 1985…high winds gusting from 60 to 80 mph buffeted the Front Range foothills. The strongest reported wind gust was 89 mph in eastern Boulder. A treehouse east of Boulder was set on fire by a downed power line. Two people in Boulder were injured. A woman broke her arm when the strong winds knocked her to the ground. A carpenter in the city suffered a severely cut hand while he was trying to repair a roof that was being torn from a building. At Stapleton International Airport…northwest winds gusted to 41 mph.

In 2001…west-northwest winds gusting as high as 54 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 70 degrees at Denver International Airport.

From the 22nd to the 23rd:

In 1914…post-frontal rain changed to snow. Precipitation totaled 2.72 inches…most of which was in the form of moist snow which melted as it fell in the business section of the city. About 3 inches of snow was measured on lawns in the residential areas on the morning of the 24th. Official snowfall totaled only 0.4 inch downtown… But an estimated 8.0 inches of snow melted as it fell. North to northeast winds were sustained to 29 mph with gusts to 30 mph on both days.

In 1975…a vigorous cold front moving across metro Denver followed by strong northeast winds gusting to 52 mph produced billows of blowing dust and plunged the temperature 21 degrees in an hour. The surface visibility was reduced to 1/4 mile in blowing dust at Stapleton International Airport. The temperature cooled from a daily record high of 81 degrees to a low of 38 degrees by day’s end. The first snowfall of the season totaled 2.7 inches on the 23rd. This was the only measurable snow of the month at Stapleton International Airport.

In 1995…heavy snow fell on the Palmer Ridge south of Denver and in the foothills west of Denver where snow amounts ranged from 4 to 8 inches. Sedalia…south of Denver… Received 8 inches of snow. Winds strengthened on the plains and produced blizzard conditions…reducing surface visibilities to less than 1/4 mile. I-70 was closed from just east of Denver at Gun Club Road to the Kansas border. Ten inches of snow fell at Strasburg east of Denver where north winds at sustained speeds of 35 to 45 mph with gusts as high as 60 mph produced 2 to 4 foot drifts. Snowfall totaled only 2.2 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. North winds gusted to 51 mph at Denver International Airport.

On the 23rd:

In 1876…skies were fair…but winds were sustained to 48 mph.

In 1942…a major storm dumped 10.2 inches of snow over downtown Denver. Post-frontal northeast winds were sustained to only 13 mph.

In 1955…the first snowfall of the season and the only measurable snow of the month dumped 4.1 inches of snow on Stapleton Airport. This was the single heaviest October snowfall in 13 years since 1942. The storm also brought the first sub-freezing temperatures of the season when the temperature dipped to a low of 25 degrees.

In 1956…southwest winds gusted to 53 mph and produced some blowing dust at Stapleton Airport.

In 1967…a northwest wind gust to 51 mph was recorded at Stapleton International Airport. In downtown Boulder… Winds were sustained at 20 mph with gusts in excess of 40 mph.

In 1981…strong winds occurred in the foothills. Wind gusts to 70 mph were reported at Wondervu.

From the 23rd to the 24th:

In 1887…the first measurable snowfall of the season totaled 3.1 inches. North winds to 20 mph were recorded on the 23rd. This was the only measurable snow of the month.

In 1932…post-frontal snowfall from the late evening of the 23rd continued through the late afternoon of the 24th and totaled 6.2 inches. Southeast winds were sustained to 25 mph with gusts to 26 mph on the 23rd. Temperatures cooled from a high of 68 degrees on the 23rd to a low of 25 degrees on the 24th…the coldest reading of the month that year. Many trees that had not shed their leaves became heavily laden by the wet snow. Many branches were broken… And a few trees toppled under the weight of the snow. The landscape became one of rare beauty.

On the 24th:

In 1956…southwest winds gusted to 56 mph and produced some blowing dust at Stapleton Airport. A cold front produced a thunderstorm with 1/8 inch hail. Rain later changed to snow. Precipitation totaled only 0.11 inch and snowfall only 0.3 inch.

In 1973…strong winds raked the eastern foothills…causing damage in Boulder and Jefferson counties. The heaviest damage occurred in the Boulder area where 20 to 25 mobile homes were hit…some power and telephone lines were blown down…and a store was damaged. A wind gust to 76 mph was recorded in Boulder at the National Bureau of Standards. Northwest winds gusted to 46 mph at Stapleton International Airport.

From the 24th to the 25th:

In 1921…rainfall totaled 0.35 inch overnight behind an apparent cold front. North winds were sustained to 40 mph with gusts to 46 mph on the 25th. Temperatures plunged from a high of 73 degrees on the 24th to a low of 39 degrees on the 25th.

In 1923…rain overnight changed to snow during the morning. The heavy snowfall accumulated to 12.0 inches before ending on the morning of the 25th. Post-frontal north winds were sustained to 22 mph with gusts to 23 mph on the 24th.

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.

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