With the start of the meteorological winter we welcome in the month of December which can be one of extremes. Looking back at this week we see that major snowstorms, bitter cold and damaging wind have made their mark on December.
One event more than any other drives home the meaning of extreme winter weather in Colorado. The Great Snowstorm of 1913 was truly one for the history books. From December 1 to December 5 the Mile High City received an astonishing 45.7 inches of snowfall, the biggest snowstorm in Denver history. Roads were impassable and travel was impossible as the young city struggled under the weight of the snow.
- This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Great Colorado Snowstorm of 2013. Click here for a complete look back at this extraordinary event including photos.
It was in 1972 that bitter, dangerous cold settled in for the period from the 3rd to the 15th of December. For 10 straight days temperatures remained stubbornly below freezing and for 11 days lows dropped below zero. Extreme lows of 15 degrees below zero, 17 degrees below and 18 degrees below were seen on the 5th, 6th and 10th respectively.
From December 4th to the 5th in 1996 high winds pummeled the foothills as they often do this time of year. A top wind gust of 120 mph was recorded in Blackhawk with many other areas seeing gusts in excess of 75 mph. In Lafayette a wall under construction collapsed and a semi-truck was overturned by winds on the Boulder Turnpike. In Denver, a truck was crushed when a 60-foot tree was felled on it.
Scroll down for more details on these and other historical Denver weather events from this week in history. For the latest on Denver's weather, be sure to 'Like' us on Facebook, add us to your circles on Google+ and follow us on Twitter.
From the National Weather Service:
In 1929…heavy snow blanketed the city. Snowfall totaled 9.8 inches downtown. North winds were sustained to 32 mph with gusts to 37 mph on the 30th.
In 1970…high winds blasted Boulder and the eastern plains. In Boulder…a wind gust to 112 mph was recorded at the National Center for Atmospheric Research with a gust to 96 mph at the National Bureau of Standards.
In downtown Boulder…wind gusts reached 76 mph. At Stapleton International Airport…winds gusted to 47 mph. The high winds caused widespread light to moderate property damage across most of metro Denver. Roofs…signs…trees…power lines…and other property were damaged. Blowing dust reduced visibility to near zero over most of eastern Colorado. Several mobile homes…campers…and semi- trailers were blown off the highways north of Denver.
In 1985…an intrusion of cold arctic air into metro Denver resulted in setting 3 temperature records. The temperature climbed to only 17 degrees on the 30th…setting a record low maximum for the date. On the 1st…the temperature plunged to 6 degrees below zero…setting a record low for the date… And warmed to only 7 degrees…setting a record low maximum for the date.
In 1975…very strong Chinook winds up to 100 mph caused damage to homes…aircraft…aircraft hangars…mobile homes… Cars…and power lines along the eastern foothills. Strong northwest winds gusted to 39 mph at Stapleton International Airport on both the 30th and the 1st.
In 1899…northwest Chinook winds were sustained to 47 mph with gusts to 60 mph. The strong Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 61 degrees…the warmest of the month. The low temperature dipped to only 39 degrees.
In 1972…strong Chinook winds gusted in excess of 65 mph in Boulder. There were no reports of damage. Northwest winds gusted to 38 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1992…strong winds continued through the early morning hours. Wind gusts to over 70 mph were measured at reporting sites in the foothills west of Denver. In west Boulder…wind gusts reached 71 mph with 77 mph measured at Rollinsville. At Stapleton International Airport northwest winds gusted to 39 mph. The walker ranch…an historic site west of Boulder…burned down overnight during the high wind event. Although the winds did not cause the fire…they did hamper efforts to extinguish the blaze.
In 1996…high winds howled in and near the Front Range foothills. Winds gusted to 105 mph at Wondervu southwest of Boulder and to 70 mph at Jefferson County Airport near Broomfield. West winds gusted to only 24 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1933…apparent post-frontal heavy snowfall totaled 8.0 inches across downtown Denver. North winds were sustained to 17 mph with an extreme velocity to 18 mph on the 1st.
In 1981 strong winds gusted to over 70 mph along the foothills. A peak gust to 100 mph was recorded at Wondervu. A gust to 94 mph was recorded just west of Boulder. Roofs on houses were damaged in the Evergreen area…and some mobile homes also were damaged. At Stapleton International Airport…northwest winds gusted 44 mph on the 1st and 37 mph on the 2nd.
In 1913…the 1st marked the start of the heaviest 5-day total snowfall in the city’s history. During this period snowfall totaled 45.7 inches. Starting on the 1st…snow fell intermittently for 3 days and accumulated a little over 8 inches. On the 4th and 5th…an additional 37.4 inches of snow fell. At Georgetown in the foothills west of Denver even more snow fell…86 inches over the 5 days with the most…63 inches…on the 4th. In Colorado…snowfall was heavy along the eastern slopes of the mountains from the Palmer Divide north. High winds during the storm caused heavy drifting…which blocked all transportation. Snow cover of an inch or more from the storm persisted for 60 consecutive days from the 1st through January 29…1914. Additional snowfall in December and January prolonged the number of days. This is the third longest period of snow cover on record in the city.
In 1893…northwest winds were sustained to 42 mph with gusts to 46 mph. Snowfall was only 1.4 inches in the city.
In 1895…0.01 inch of melted snow from 0.7 inch of snowfall was the only measurable precipitation of the month in downtown Denver…ranking the month the 3rd driest December on record.
In 1899…post-frontal northeast winds sustained to 44 mph with gusts to 59 mph caused the temperature to plunge from a high of 55 degrees to a low of 15 degrees. Snowfall was only 1.0 inch.
In 1902…apparent post-frontal northwest winds were sustained to 45 mph with gusts to 53 mph. A trace of snow fell.
In 1905…only a trace of snow fell in downtown Denver. This was the only snow and precipitation for the month… Ranking the month the second driest and the second least snowiest December on record.
In 1921…snowfall was 5.5 inches in downtown Denver. Northwest winds were sustained to 24 mph with an extreme velocity of 25 mph.
In 1951…a vigorous pacific cold front produced a northwest wind gust to 51 mph at Stapleton Airport where brief blowing dust was observed.
In 1957…a strong Pacific cold front produced northwest wind gusts to 54 mph at Stapleton Airport where the surface visibility was briefly reduced to 1 1/2 miles in blowing dust.
In 1977…high winds in Boulder lifted a warehouse from its foundation and ripped it apart. Wind gusts from 60 to 103 mph toppled and injured a man while walking. Winds were clocked to 104 mph at Nederland…100 mph at Morrison…and 62 mph at Rocky Flats. Northwest winds gusted to 41 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1996…for the second day in a row high winds ripped the Front Range foothills. Winds gusted to 81 mph in Golden Gate Canyon. West-northwest winds gusted to 37 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1955…snowfall totaled only 2.9 inches at Stapleton Airport. This was the only measurable snowfall of the month.
In 1973…post-frontal heavy snowfall totaled 7.6 inches at Stapleton International Airport where northeast winds gusting to 37 mph caused some blowing snow.
In 1990…strong downslope winds raked the eastern foothills and most of metro Denver. A wind gust to 87 mph was recorded at Rollinsville with wind gusts to 58 mph in Arvada and 55 mph in Lakewood. West winds gusted to 48 mph at Stapleton International Airport on the 2nd.
In 1997…heavy snow fell in the foothills. Conifer received 10 inches of new snow. Snowfall totaled only 2.4 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport on the 1st…2nd…and 3rd. North winds gusted to 24 mph at Denver International Airport on the 2nd.
In 1909…post-frontal snowfall totaled 6.1 inches in downtown Denver. Most of the snow…5.9 inches…fell between 6:00 pm on the 2nd and 6:00 pm on the 3rd. North winds were sustained to 18 mph on both the 2nd and 3rd.
In 1939…more than 2 weeks of unseasonably warm weather made the month the 3rd warmest on record. Seven daily temperature records were set…including the all-time record high temperature for the month of 79 degrees on the 5th. Daytime highs were balmy with 14 days in the 60′s and 70′s. Low temperatures dipped to freezing or below on only 5 days. The period was dry with only a trace of snow on the 12th.
In 1977…high winds continued in Boulder and were clocked from 74 to 90 mph…causing only minor damage. Northwest winds gusted to 33 mph at Stapleton International Airport where the strong Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 63 degrees.
In 1985…wind gusts to 78 mph were clocked at Table Mesa in Boulder. Winds gusted to 70 mph at Echo Lake west of Denver.
In 2011…another round of snow developed in and near the Front Range foothills. The heaviest snowfall occurred in the foothills of Boulder and northern Jefferson counties. Storm totals included: 13 inches…7 miles southwest of Boulder; 10.5 inches…4 miles east-northeast of Nederland; 10 inches at Genesee; 9.5 inches…4 miles west-northwest of Boulder; 9 inches at Gross Reservoir and 4 miles east of Pinecliffe. Around the urban corridor…storm totals ranged from 3 to 8 inches…heaviest in and around Boulder. At Denver International Airport…3 inches of snow fell.
In 1968…strong Chinook winds in Boulder gusting to 52 mph downtown caused 7 thousand dollars in damage. Flying debris damaged cars…houses…and other property in Boulder. West winds gusted to 49 mph late on the 3rd and to 45 mph on the 4th at Stapleton International Airport where the temperature climbed to a high of 60 degrees on the 4th.
In 1970…strong winds whistled through Boulder. Sustained winds of 40 mph with gusts to 70 mph were recorded at the National Bureau of Standards in Boulder. Wind gusts to 50 mph occurred in downtown Denver. No damage was reported. On the 3rd…northwest winds gusted to 40 mph at Stapleton International Airport where the Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 66 degrees on the 4th.
In 1999…heavy snow fell over the foothills and metro Denver. The heaviest snowfall occurred in the foothills south of I-70 and near the Palmer Divide. Snowfall totals included: 25 inches near Tiny Town; 18 inches at Conifer; 15 inches near Evergreen; 14 inches at Chief Hosa…8 miles west of Castle Rock…and near Blackhawk; 12 inches at Pine Junction and 8 miles south of Sedalia; 11 inches atop Floyd Hill and in Roxborough; and 10 inches at Castle Rock. Around metro Denver…snowfall totals included: 10 inches at Highlands Ranch…9 inches at Parker…and 8 inches in Aurora and Wheat Ridge. Elsewhere around the metro area…snowfall generally ranged from 3 to 5 inches. Only 3.2 inches of snow fell at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. North winds gusted to 32 mph at Denver International Airport on the 3rd.
In 2007…high winds developed in and near the Front Range foothills. Peak wind reports included: 88 mph atop Niwot Ridge; 87 mph atop Mines Peak; 80 mph…3 miles southeast of Jamestown; 78 mph at Longmont; 74 mph at Table Mesa. A few power outages occurred in Longmont as broken branches downed power lines. Northwest winds gusted to 38 mph at Denver International Airport on the 4th.
In 1972…a protracted cold spell held an icy grip on metro Denver when maximum temperatures never reached above freezing for 10 consecutive days from the 3rd through the 12th and minimum temperatures dipped below zero on eleven consecutive days from the 5th through the 15th. Daily low temperature records were set with 15 degrees below zero on the 5th…17 degrees below zero on the 6th… And 18 degrees below zero on the 10th. Daily record low maximum readings were set with 3 degrees on the 6th and 6 degrees on the 9th. The very cold temperatures were caused by 3 to 5 inches of snow cover and a Canadian air mass.
In 1884…a windstorm during the afternoon produced sustained northwest winds to 34 mph with higher gusts. The strong wind blew one of the wooden slats from the weather instrument shelter…which broke the wet-bulb thermometer.
In 1885…north winds were sustained to 40 mph during the early morning hours. The strong winds were accompanied by a cold wave.
In 1893…northwest winds were sustained to 48 mph with gusts as high as 55 mph. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 58 degrees.
In 1901…Chinook winds sustained from the northwest at 40 mph with gusts to 48 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 55 degrees in the city.
In 1906…rainfall of only 0.01 inch before daybreak was the only measurable precipitation of the month…ranking the month the third driest December on record.
In 1910…cold west winds were strong all day with a sustained speed to 44 mph.
In 1977…northwest winds gusted to 55 mph at Stapleton International Airport where the strong Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 55 degrees.
In 1978…high winds from 50 to near 150 mph occurred in the Boulder area. A pick-up truck was overturned…and a camper top was blown off another truck. Some roof damage was reported. Northwest winds gusted to 48 mph at Stapleton International Airport…where the Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 57 degrees.
In 1980…wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph occurred along the foothills. Southwest winds gusted to 31 mph at Stapleton International Airport. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a record high of 69 degrees for the day.
In 1991…a volcanic ash cloud high in the atmosphere was clearly visible during the late afternoon being illuminated by the setting sun.
In 1995…very strong downslope winds gusting to 100 mph in the foothills knocked down trees and power lines… Triggering 800 power outages. Downed power lines sparked a half dozen brush fires ranging up to 4 acres in size. In Boulder…a portion of an old drive-in movie screen was blown down…and several car windows were shattered. The strongest wind gusts recorded were 100 mph at Golden Gate Canyon…99 mph at Rocky Flats environmental technology site…96 mph in north Boulder…94 mph at Wondervu…81 mph at Conifer…and 77 mph in south Boulder. West-northwest winds gusted to only 29 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1912…5.2 inches of post-frontal snow fell in downtown Denver. Most of the snow fell on the 4th when northeast winds were sustained to 42 mph with gusts to 46 mph.
In 1913…a major winter storm produced heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions in the city. The snow fell continuously for 40 consecutive hours from 4:30 am on the 4th until just before midnight on the 5th and totaled 37.6 inches. The greatest accumulation on the ground was 32.6 inches at 6:00 pm on the 5th. Strong north winds accompanied the storm with sustained speeds of 30 mph or more for more than 25 hours. The highest sustained wind velocity was 44 mph during the afternoon of the 5th. Winds gusted to 46 mph on the 4th and to 47 mph on the 5th. The winds piled the snow into 4-and 5-foot drifts. By noon on the 4th traffic was interrupted…and by evening the heavy wet snow had blocked most streets and highways. Street cars stalled when streets became blocked. Automobiles and other conveyances were abandoned in the streets. By the 5th… The blockage extended to steam railroads. Flat roofed buildings collapsed…including the roof of the Calvary Baptist Church. Many downtown workers were unable to make it home on the night of the 4th and filled downtown hotels to overflowing. Some enjoyed the festive mood of the occasion and partied through the night. The city auditorium…jail…and several movie houses served as shelters for hundreds of people. The snow was remarkably moist for this time of year with a total water content of 3.44 inches. Temperatures during the storm were between 25 and 34 degrees. Cold weather followed the storm and snow remained on the ground for a long time. On some street car lines…it took 6 to 7 days before the right of way could be cleared. The foothills measured even more snow from the storm. At Georgetown…the 2 day snowfall totaled 71 inches. The 2.12 inches of precipitation measured on the 4th is the greatest calendar day precipitation ever recorded during the month of December in Denver. The 2.29 inches of precipitation measured from the 4th into the 5th is the greatest 24 hour precipitation ever recorded in the city during December.
In 1972…only 4.5 inches of snow fell at Stapleton International Airport…but high winds on the evening of the 4th caused blizzard conditions over the plains east of Denver. A 21-year-old University of Colorado student caught in the storm while cross country skiing west of Boulder froze to death. North winds gusted to 32 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1979…the Front Range was hit by strong Chinook winds. The Boulder area was hardest hit with winds gusting to 119 mph at Rocky Flats and 92 mph in the city. A wind gust to 104 mph was recorded at Wondervu. Damage was widespread…amounting to 1.2 million dollars mainly around Boulder. Roofs were blown off several buildings and homes… Hundreds of windows were broken…and many cars were damaged by flying debris. Small planes were severely damaged at 3 airports in the area. West winds gusted to 55 mph at Stapleton International Airport on the 5th.
In 1996…persistent westerly flow aloft produced more high winds in and near the Front Range foothills. Several locations reported hurricane force winds with peak gusts of 100 to 120 mph. The high winds downed trees and power lines…leaving 700 residents without power for nearly 4 hours in the communities of Beaver Brook…Blue Valley… Conifer…Evergreen…and Floyd Hill. A wall of a building under construction in Lafayette was toppled…a semi-truck was blown over near the Boulder turnpike damaging a concrete barrier…and a 60-foot tree crushed a parked pick-up truck at a Denver residence. High wind gusts included: an estimated 120 mph at Blackhawk…115 mph at Aspen Springs…100 mph at the Eldora Ski Resort…75 mph atop Shanahan Ridge near Boulder…74 mph near Conifer…and 71 mph at the Rocky Flats Environmental Test Facility. At Denver International Airport…west winds gusted to 51 mph on the 4th and to only 38 mph on the 5th.
In 1960…heavy snowfall totaled 12.0 inches over the 3 days with 5.1 inches on the 4th…5.2 inches on the 5th…and 1.7 inches on the 6th. Rain changed to snow early on the 4th and ended by early afternoon. Snow started again early on the 5th and continued through midday on the 6th. West northwest winds gusted to 30 mph on the 4th. Post cold frontal temperatures cooled from a high of 38 degrees on the 4th to a low of 7 degrees below zero on the 6th.
In 1897…west Chinook winds sustained to 48 mph with gusts to 60 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 60 degrees.
In 1906…only a trace of snow fell in downtown Denver. This…along with a trace of snow on both the 28th and 29th… Was the only snow of the month…ranking the month the second least snowiest December on record.
In 1939…the highest temperature ever recorded in December… 79 degrees…occurred.
In 1979…strong Chinook winds gusted to 55 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1993…strong winds in and near the foothills swept across metro Denver. Wind gusts to 71 mph were recorded atop Squaw Mountain and 68 mph at Rollinsville. Wind gusts to 69 mph were observed at Jefferson County Airport near Broomfield…and to 68 mph on Table Mesa in southwest Boulder. Northwest wind gusts to 44 mph were recorded at Stapleton International Airport.
In 2002…only a trace of snow fell at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. This…along with the trace of snow on the 18th…was the only snow of the month…ranking the month the 2nd least snowiest on record.
In 2005…high winds in Boulder broke windows…damaged roofs… And produced power outages that left around 10 thousand people without electricity. In the Golden area along C-470…I-70…and the McIntyre Parkway…seven tractor trailers were overturned by strong cross-winds. Peak wind gusts included: 98 mph near Eldorado Springs…90 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder… 85 mph near Evergreen…83 mph at Jefferson County Airport near Broomfield…80 mph near Golden…and 76 mph near Longmont. West to northwest winds gusted to 39 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1883…a major snow storm hit the city. Heavy snow fell from 10:00 am on the 5th to 7:30 am on the 6th. The amount of snowfall was not recorded…but precipitation from melted snow totaled 1.75 inches…which would give an estimated snowfall of nearly 18 inches. Temperatures during the storm were in the 30′s…so some of the snow May have melted as it fell. However…railroads were blocked and telegraph lines were downed in all directions. Telephone wires and poles were nearly all broken down. The company manager estimated the damage at 30 thousand dollars. Northeast winds were sustained to 24 mph in the city.
In 1892…heavy snow totaled 6.2 inches in downtown Denver. Most of the snow…6.0 inches…fell on the 6th.
In 2001…high winds developed in the foothills northwest of Denver. Winds gusted to 74 mph at Aspen Springs. West- northwest winds gusted to 35 mph at Denver International Airport…where the temperature warmed to a high of 55 degrees on the 6th.
In 1978…a major storm dumped heavy snow across metro Denver. At Stapleton International Airport…snowfall totaled 8.5 inches…northeast winds gusted to 46 mph…and temperatures plunged from a high of 49 degrees on the 5th to a low of only 6 degrees on the 6th. Maximum temperature of 6 degrees on the 7th was a new daily record low maximum reading. Most of the snow…6.7 inches…fell on the 5th.
In 1983…high winds occurred in and near the foothills each day. Wind gusts to 63 mph were registered in Golden Gate Canyon on the evening of the 5th. On the evening of the 6th…winds knocked down trees…snapped power lines…and blew out windows across metro Denver. Gusts were clocked to 102 mph in southwest metro Denver…while wind gusts to 38 mph were recorded at Stapleton International Airport. On the 7th…winds overturned a tractor trailer near Castle Rock. After midnight on the 8th…gusts to 97 mph were reported in southeast Boulder. Wind speeds of 60 to 70 mph were reported in other parts of metro Denver.
In 1939…high temperature of 73 degrees was a record maximum for the date. Low temperature of 44 degrees was a record high minimum for the date.
In 1967…strong west winds produced blowing dust at Stapleton International Airport where a wind gust to 55 mph was recorded. A heavy windstorm caused minor damage in Boulder. In Denver…some structural panels were blown from a building… And the screen of an outdoor theater was severely damaged. There were unofficial reports of wind gusts to 75 mph in metro Denver.
In 1977…wind gusting to 85 mph raked the foothills from Boulder to Morrison. A few houses under construction were blown down. Northwest winds gusted to 39 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1991…high in the atmosphere…a volcanic ash cloud was clearly visible in the direction of the sun during the late morning and early afternoon.
In 1953…high winds buffeted the eastern foothills. Wind gusts to 80 mph occurred on Lookout Mountain.
In Denver winds gusted to 65 mph. Damage in Boulder totaled 15 hundred dollars.
In 1897…west winds were sustained to 53 mph with gusts to 66 mph. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 62 degrees…the warmest day of the month.
In 1957…a vigorous cold front produced a dust storm as it moved south across metro Denver. West-northwest wind gusts to 59 mph were recorded at Stapleton Airport where the surface visibility was briefly reduced to 1/2 mile in blowing dust. Light snowfall of only 0.8 inch followed the passage of a secondary Canadian cold front.
In 1958…the worst wind storm in several years caused 10 thousand dollars damage in Boulder where wind gusts were estimated to 75 mph.
In 1977 winds up to 115 mph were reported in the Boulder area where one house was unroofed and another damaged. One woman was knocked down by the wind and injured. Several families were evacuated from homes in Boulder. Damage to trailers and motor vehicles was widespread. West winds gusted to 54 mph at Stapleton International Airport where the Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 64 degrees.
In 1987…strong winds buffeted the Front Range foothills. A peak gust to 93 mph was recorded at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. Nearby…a metal shed was blown over a fence into a tree two houses away. Wind gusts of 70 to 80 mph were common in Boulder.
In 1988…4 to 8 inches of snow fell across metro Denver and caused traffic gridlock conditions on area highways. The 3.9 inches of snow at Stapleton International Airport caused two-hour flight delays. Northeast winds gusted to 25 mph.
In 2005…a brief cold snap resulted in record breaking temperatures. The low temperature of 13 degrees below zero was a record minimum for the date. The high temperature of only 3 degrees was a record low maximum for the date. The cold temperatures were accompanied by 1.4 inches of light snow that was measured at Denver Stapleton overnight on the 6th and 7th.
In 1919…an apparent arctic cold front brought extreme cold and light snow to the city. Snowfall totaled only 2.5 inches on the 7th and 8th. Temperatures dipped to lows of 14 degrees below zero on the 8th and to 20 degrees below zero on the 9th. Both readings were daily record minimums. High temperatures were only 4 degrees on the 8th and 7 degrees on the 9th.
In 1923…a major storm dumped 13.5 inches of snowfall on downtown Denver. The apparent post-frontal snowfall started during the late afternoon of the 7th and continued through the evening of the 9th. Temperatures dipped from a high of 66 degrees on the 7th with west winds sustained to 35 mph to a low of only 14 degrees on the 9th…with north winds sustained to 25 mph.