The month of January might invoke thoughts of cold and snow. However, while those conditions can and do happen, our look back at this week in Denver weather history shows that extreme wind is in many ways more common.
It was on January 17, 1982 when those powerful winds raked the Front Range foothills. Near Boulder an astonishing gust of 147 mph was recorded at one point during the event. Damage was extensive with 40 percent of all buildings in Boulder estimated to have received damage. Nearly two dozen planes were destroyed at Boulder Municipal airport and 15 homes lost their roofs. Damage was estimated at $20 million, a record for wind storm damage at that time.
Just last year from the 17th to the 18th of the month strong winds struck. Gusts in excess of 70 mph were common with the highest reading coming in at 104 mph in south Boulder. Trees and power lines were downed in the event and a semi-trailer was blown over on Highway 93.
Extreme cold has certainly occurred as well. It was from January 15 to January 23 in 1962 that an extended period of bitter temperatures settled in. Temperatures plunged below zero for nine days straight. The 22nd saw a low of 14 degrees and the so-called high temperature on the 21st was only 3 degrees. A number of fatalities were attributed to the cold including a woman that froze to death in Morrison.
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 1997…heavy snow fell over the Front Range foothills. A foot of new snow was measured at Blackhawk with 7 inches recorded in Coal Creek Canyon. Only 3.3 inches of snow fell at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. East-northeast winds gusted to 18 mph at Denver International Airport on the 11th.
In 1963…an arctic cold wave plunged temperatures well below zero across metro Denver. Temperatures were below zero for a total of 64 consecutive hours. Low temperatures reached 25 degrees below zero on both the 11th and 12th. The high temperature of 9 degrees below zero on the 11th was the coldest ever recorded at Stapleton Airport and equaled the record low maximum for the month first set on January 19…1883…in downtown Denver. The high temperature on the 12th reached only 1 degree below zero. On the 12th…an 18-year-old youth died of exposure from the extreme cold in Denver. There were many losses and damage to property from frozen water systems…stalled cars…and over-burdened heating systems. Light snow accompanied the arctic blast. At Stapleton Airport…2.3 inches of snow fell on the 10th and 11th.
In 1972…high winds howled along the Front Range foothills. A wind gust to 144 mph was recorded at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. A wind gust to 105 mph was recorded at the Rocky Flats plant south of Boulder. Wind gusts to 90 mph were recorded in downtown Boulder. The greatest damage from the windstorm occurred in Boulder where 25 or more mobile homes were destroyed either by wind or the fires which resulted when they were overturned. Car windows were blown out; many buildings damaged; utility poles…power lines…trees…and traffic lights blown down. As many as 75 families were evacuated from a recently completed apartment building because of severe structural damage. Government and private office buildings and industrial plants were evacuated because of danger from flying glass and debris. Twelve people were treated at the hospital…mostly for cuts from flying glass. At least 15 small planes were seriously damaged and hangar doors were blown off at the Jefferson County Airport in Broomfield. Wind damage in Boulder alone totaled 2 million dollars. At Stapleton International Airport…west winds gusted to 53 mph on the 11th and to 47 mph on the 12th. The strong Chinook winds warmed temperatures into the mid 50′s on both days.
In 1997…cold arctic air plunged temperatures below zero across metro Denver. The temperature was below zero for 60 consecutive hours from the afternoon on the 11th to around daybreak on the 14th. The high temperature of only 1 degree below zero on the 12th equaled the record low maximum for the date last set in 1963. The low temperature dipped to 14 degrees below zero on the 12th.
In 1888…gale force winds toppled the weather instrument shelter in downtown Denver. The strong winds in the foothills blew a train off the track at Georgetown. Northwest winds were sustained to 60 mph in the city. The strong winds warmed the temperature to a high of 50 degrees.
In 1980…strong winds in Boulder peaked to 95 mph at Table Mesa. Northwest winds gusted to only 29 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1992…a strong pacific storm system dumped heavy snow across portions of metro Denver. Conifer…in the foothills southwest of Denver…received 17.5 inches of snow. Eleven inches fell at Lake Eldora west of Boulder…with 7 inches recorded at Morrison and 6 inches at Castle Rock. At Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 31 mph…the snowfall totaled only 4.4 inches. Strong winds forced the closure of some highways.
In 1998…very strong winds and heavy snow caused blizzard conditions in the mountains to spread over portions of the Front Range foothills. Just east of the Continental Divide…sustained winds from 80 to 85 mph with gusts to 100 mph were recorded at Silver Spruce Ranch near Ward… Resulting in whiteout conditions. Only a trace of snow fell at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. North winds gusted to only 28 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 2009…a fast moving storm system brought heavy snow to the foothills of Boulder and Jefferson counties…as well as the western and southern Denver suburbs. Storm totals generally ranged from 4 to 9 inches. The snowfall measurement at Denver International Airport was 3.0 inches.
In 1936…strong winds in Boulder blew roofs off homes. Wind gusts over 60 mph were recorded at the University of Colorado and a gust to 55 mph measured at Valmont.
In 2002…high winds developed in the foothills on the 12th and spread over the plains on the 13th. Winds gusted to 76 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research on the mesa in Boulder on the 12th. Northwest winds gusted to 49 mph…the highest wind of the month…at Denver International Airport on the 13th. The strongest winds were north and northeast of metro Denver.
In 1875…the low temperature dipped to 20 degrees below zero… A record low for the date and climbed to a high of only 2 degrees below zero…a record low maximum for the date.
In 1880…the worst wind storm ever experienced in Boulder caused some damage and personal injuries.
In 1893…northwest winds were sustained to 42 mph in the city.
In 1904…northwest winds were sustained to 40 mph with gusts as high as 50 mph. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 63 degrees. The low temperature remained above freezing…dipping to only 34 degrees.
In 1919…snowfall was 1.8 inches in downtown Denver. Melted snow resulted in only 0.12 inch of precipitation. This was the only snowfall and precipitation for the month.
In 1932…snowfall totaled 3.4 inches in downtown Denver. North winds gusted to 22 mph.
In 1967…high winds in Boulder gusted to 70 mph downtown. Some damage occurred. Northwest winds gusting to 38 mph at Stapleton International Airport produced some blowing dust.
In 1988…high winds occurred in Boulder with a wind gust to 70 mph at Table Mesa. In the foothills a wind gust to 82 mph was measured at Rollinsville. West winds gusted to 33 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1960…snowfall totaled only 4.4 inches and northeast winds gusted to 28 mph at Stapleton Airport…while over southeast Colorado a near blizzard closed roads with drifts 3 to 6 feet deep.
In 1888…a cold air mass settled over the city and caused temperatures to plunge well below zero on four consecutive days…but only one temperature record was set. Minimum temperatures dipped to 4 degrees below zero on the 13th… 19 degrees below zero on the 14th…20 degrees below zero on the 15th…and 11 degrees below zero on the 16th. The maximum temperature of only 4 degrees below zero on the 14th was a record low maximum for the date. North winds were sustained to 30 mph on the 13th.
In 1873…winds were brisk all day. After sunset…northeast sustained winds produced a perfect gale…behind an apparent cold front.
In 1875…the temperature remained below zero all day with a general northeast wind. At 9:00 pm the temperature was 1 degree above zero which was the official high for the day. The wind suddenly veered to the southwest and the temperature climbed 19 degrees in 15 minutes…7 more degrees in the next 5 minutes…and by 9:30 pm had risen to 36 degrees. By 9:35 pm the temperature had reached 40 degrees…a rise of 48 degrees in one hour and 39 degrees in half an hour. The sudden rise in temperature could be attributed to a receding arctic air mass and downsloping surface winds.
In 1906…the temperature climbed to a high of 56 degrees before an apparent cold front produced northeast winds sustained to 40 mph and a trace of snow in the afternoon.
In 1921…west winds were sustained to 44 mph with gusts to 46 mph. The downslope winds warmed the temperature to a high of 49 degrees.
In 1967…3.7 inches of snow fell at Stapleton International Airport with 7.7 inches measured in Boulder.
In 1982…strong Chinook winds buffeted Boulder…tearing the roof off a small apartment building. A gust to 88 mph was measured in Lakewood. Wind gusts of 60 to 80 mph were common along the foothills from Denver north to Fort Collins. Four people sustained minor injuries…mostly from flying glass. At least one person was knocked down by the winds. Several tractor trailer rigs were blown off I-70 near Golden…and numerous camper shells were blown off pick-up trucks.
In 1908…heavy post-frontal snowfall totaled 6.5 inches overnight. North winds were sustained to 32 mph. The temperature dropped 41 degrees in 24 hours from a reading of 48 degrees at 8:00 pm on the 14th to only 7 degrees at 8:00 pm on the 15th.
In 1950…strong winds occurred in Boulder and Louisville. Winds in excess of 60 mph were recorded at Valmont. Minor damage was reported. Southwest winds gusted to 50 mph at Stapleton Airport.
In 1959…a total of 5.5 inches of snow fell at Stapleton Airport.
In 1992…snow spread from the mountains across metro Denver. The heaviest snow was across the northern portion of the area where 7 inches fell at Thornton. At Stapleton International Airport…only 3.4 inches of snowfall were recorded and northeast winds gusting to 37 mph caused some blowing snow on the 14th.
In 1999…high winds howled across metro Denver. In Commerce City…strong winds toppled 3 utility poles resulting in a power outage to 600 homes. High wind reports included: 108 mph at Wondervu…80 mph at the Hiwan Golf Course in Evergreen…76 mph at Aspen Springs…75 mph at the Jefferson County Airport near Broomfield…74 mph in Boulder…and 70 mph at Georgetown. West to northwest winds gusted to 48 mph…the highest wind gust of the month…and warmed the temperature to a high of 60 degrees at Denver International Airport on the 15th.
In 1930…a protracted cold spell occurred when low temperatures plunged below zero on 8 consecutive days. The coldest low temperatures of 20 degrees below zero on the 17th and 19 degrees below zero on the 16th were record minimums for the dates. High temperatures during the period ranged from 18 on the 18th to zero on the 20th. Two degrees on the 15th was a record low maximum temperature for the date.
In 1875…the wind backed from the southwest to the northeast before noon. The temperature fell 48 degrees in one hour… From a high of 52 degrees to only 4 degrees between 11:30 am and 12:30 pm…as cold arctic air surged back over the city.
In 1888…the low temperature dipped to 20 degrees below zero.
In 1906…southwest winds were sustained to 44 mph.
In 1921…south winds were sustained to 44 mph with gusts to 48 mph. The winds warmed the temperature to a high of 63 degrees. The low temperature of only 47 degrees was a record high minimum for the date.
In 1943…strong Chinook winds struck the Front Range foothills. Wind gusts to 96 mph were recorded at Valmont in east Boulder…with 90 mph measured at Boulder airport. Some damage occurred.
In 1976…strong Chinook winds with peak gusts of 70 to 80 mph were recorded along the foothills. Northwest winds gusted to 46 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1982…a vigorous cold front plunged temperatures 22 degrees in an hour from 39 to 17 degrees. Strong northeast winds at 30 mph with gusts to 46 mph…along with some snow flurries…reduced the visibility to 1 mile in blowing dust at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1987…heavy snow hit metro Denver. Snowfall totaled 10.3 inches at Stapleton International Airport…but amounts across the area ranged from 3 inches in southeast Aurora to 18 inches in the western and southwestern suburbs. Only an inch of snow was measured at Castle Rock. A half foot to a foot of snow fell in the foothills west of Denver and Boulder. Some schools were closed due to the storm. Temperatures hovered in the teens most of the day at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 30 mph.
In 1988…high winds were clocked in Boulder with a gust to 70 mph recorded at Table Mesa.
In 1998…strong winds developed in and near the Front Range foothills. Winds gusted to 71 mph at Jefferson County Airport near Broomfield. South-southwest winds gusted to only 25 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1967…a major windstorm struck Boulder. The storm was described at the time as the worst single windstorm in the history of Boulder in terms of damage. Winds reached 125 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and at Boulder airport. Winds gusted to 84 mph downtown. Damage totaled a half million dollars in Boulder where some minor injuries were reported. At the Boulder municipal airport… 14 light airplanes were severely damaged. The second floor of a warehouse was blown down…damaging two nearby moving vans. A mobile home was blown over south of Boulder… Injuring one woman. The roof of a department store was blown in. There was widespread damage to houses…autos… And power lines from wind and flying debris. Strong winds also occurred in Denver and Golden…but damage was only minor. At Stapleton International Airport…west winds gusted to 43 mph on the 15th and to 45 mph on the 16th.
In 1981…heavy snow of 6 to 10 inches accumulated across metro Denver. Snowfall totaled only 1.8 inches at Stapleton International Airport where east winds gusted to 21 mph on the 15th.
In 1991…a pacific storm system moved across metro Denver. Snowfall totaled 3 to 7 inches with 3 inches in Aurora… Denver…and Castle Rock…4 inches in Arvada…and 7 inches at South Platte station just southwest of Denver. Snowfall totaled only 2.9 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 21 mph on the 16th.
In 2001…heavy snow fell across the Front Range foothills and urban corridor. The combination of careless driving and snowpacked highways resulted in 3 multi-vehicle accidents involving 30 vehicles…along I-25 in Douglas County. Eleven people were injured and one was killed. Snow amounts included: 11 inches in Evergreen; 10 inches at Eldorado Springs and Genesee; 8 inches at Broomfield… Ken Caryl Ranch…and Thornton; and 5 to 7 inches in Arvada…Bailey…Crow Hill…Gross Reservoir…Lakewood… Louisville…Westminster…and near Loveland. Snowfall totaled 2.7 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.
In 1962…a protracted cold spell kept metro Denver in the deep freeze for more than a week. From the 15th thru the 23rd…low temperatures were zero or below for 9 consecutive days…but a daily record low was set only on the 22nd when the temperature dipped to 14 degrees below zero. A record low maximum for the date was also set on the 22nd when the temperature climbed to only 11 degrees. The coldest high temperature was 3 degrees above zero on the 21st…which did not break the record. The protracted cold was broken for only a few hours on the afternoon of the 20th when Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 38 degrees before another surge of cold arctic air plunged temperatures back into the deep freeze that evening. The severe cold caused much damage to water systems. A woman was frozen to death at Morrison. There were other deaths attributable to the weather…including traffic deaths and heart attacks from overexertion.
In 1911…a trace of rain fell…a rare event in January.
In 1935…rainfall was 0.01 inch during the afternoon…a rare event in January.
In 1989…wind gusts to 80 mph were reported in southwest Boulder. Winds reached 100 mph at Rollinsville in the foothills southwest of Boulder. In Golden…the wind blew a 25-foot trailer through a fence and flipped it over. West winds gusted to 37 mph at Stapleton International Airport where the Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 49 degrees.
In 1886…a brief cold spell resulted in two temperature records. High temperatures of zero degrees on the 16th and 2 degrees below zero on the 17th were both record low maximums for the dates. Low temperatures of 8 degrees below zero on the 16th and 16 degrees below zero on the 17th were not records.
In 1930…temperatures plunging well below zero resulted in two records. Low temperatures of 19 degrees below zero on the 16th and 20 degrees below zero on the 17th were record low temperatures for the dates. High temperatures were 4 degrees on the 16th and 15 degrees on the 17th. Light snowfall totaled 4.0 inches. North winds were sustained to 18 mph on the 16th.
In 1964…high winds struck the eastern foothills. Gale velocity winds were recorded in Boulder with gusts to 83 mph measured at Rocky Flats. Several airplanes were damaged at the Jefferson County Airport in Broomfield. Roofs…walls…and parts of buildings were blown away at various locations. Power poles and trees were blown over.
In 1943…light snowfall totaled 3.2 inches over the 3 days. This was the only measurable snow of the month. North winds were sustained to 20 mph on the 16th.
In 2011…very strong winds associated with an upper level jetstream over Colorado produced blizzard conditions in the mountains above timberline. Peak wind gusts included: 99 mph atop Loveland Pass…94 mph…2 miles southwest of Mary Jane…80 mph atop Berthoud Pass and 79 mph atop Niwot Ridge. Storm totals in the ski areas west of Denver ranged from 8 to 14 inches.
In 1872…light snow fell during the morning and continued into the afternoon until 3:30 pm. The sky commenced to clear a little before 2:00 pm…but snow fell thickly for at least half an hour even though the sky was perfectly clear overhead. Melted snow totaled 0.33 inches.
In 1888…northwest winds were sustained to 46 mph in the city.
In 1905…intermittent rain…unusual in January…occurred during the day. The rain changed to snow during the late evening…but ended before midnight. Snowfall was 2.0 inches. Precipitation totaled 0.62 inch. The temperature ranged from a high of 44 degrees to a low of 32 degrees.
In 1950…wind gusts to 62 mph caused some blowing dust at Stapleton Airport.
In 1982…one of the worst wind storms in many years hit the Front Range foothills. The strongest winds occurred in Boulder where at 2:30 am a wind gust to 147 mph was recorded at the National Center for Atmospheric Research…on the mesa in southwest Boulder. At this location 20 wind gusts over 120 mph were clocked between 1:00 am and 9:00 am. An estimated 40 percent of all buildings in Boulder received at least minor wind damage. About 50 homes were damaged enough to be uninhabitable. At least 15 homes in the Table Mesa area of Boulder lost roofs. Twenty small airplanes were destroyed at the Boulder airport. Utility poles were snapped in two…and about one-seventh of the buildings in the area were without power. Insured damage totaled 20 million dollars making the wind storm the most costly on record in Colorado at the time.
In 1989…high winds were recorded along the eastern foothills with gusts to 90 mph recorded at Rollinsville. North of Denver on I-25…the wind injured two men when their tractor trailer was blown off the road and rolled. West winds gusted to 48 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1990…an intense but localized snow storm caught many people by surprise when it dumped 3 to 6 inches of snow during a 3-hour period across portions of Boulder County. The storm swath approximately 20 to 30 miles wide stretched northeast from Boulder to just east of Longmont. Only light snow fell over the remainder of metro Denver with 0.2 inch of snowfall measured at Stapleton International Airport where northeast winds gusted to 30 mph.
In 1998…strong winds in the foothills spread over the plains mainly north of metro Denver. Winds gusted to 75 mph at Golden Gate Canyon. West winds gusted to 34 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1974…rare overnight January rainfall totaled 0.12 inch on the 17th and 0.26 inch on the 18th when it was briefly mixed with snow.
In 2012…damaging winds developed in and near the Front Range. In Boulder…the high winds knocked down several trees…power poles and electrical lines. Some of the fallen trees damaged homes and automobiles. A semi-trailer was blown on its side along State Highway 93 near Marshall. Peak wind gusts included: 104 mph in south Boulder; 98 mph…3 miles southwest of Pinecliffe; 95 mph…2 miles northwest of Rocky Flats; 92 mph…at State Highway 93 near Marshall; 87 mph at Berthoud Pass and in Boulder Canyon; 80 mph…5 miles west- northwest of Boulder; 83 mph at NCAR Mesa Lab; 78 mph…8 miles northeast of four corners; 79 mph at the National Wind Technology Center; 76 mph at Wondervu; 75 mph atop Loveland Pass and the NCAR foothills lab in Boulder; 74 mph at Blue Mountain…Boulder Municipal Airport…1 mile northwest of Lyons; 73 mph…4 miles east-northeast of Nederland; 72 mph at the junction of State Highways 72 and 93; 62 mph in Superior; and 61 mph at Erie Municipal Airport. A peak wind gust of 38 mph from the northwest was observed at Denver International Airport.
In 1874…light rain…rare in January…changed to snow which totaled 3 inches.
In 1959…strong gusty winds caused damage to buildings… Airplanes…trees…and a radio tower in Boulder… Broomfield…Denver…and Longmont. A wind gust to 70 mph was recorded in Longmont. In Boulder…the top of a radio tower was toppled and signs…trees…and trailer houses were blown over. In southwest Denver…a mother and child were injured when their car was struck by a sign that had blown loose in the wind. Minor damage to buildings and power lines was reported in the area. Northwest winds gusted to 38 mph at Stapleton Airport. Post-frontal east northeast winds gusted to 40 mph.
In 1961…northeast winds gusted to 29 mph and snowfall totaled only 0.1 inch at Stapleton Airport…but 2 to 7 inches of snow fell in the foothills west of Denver.
In 1975…a strong cold front roared through metro Denver producing north wind gusts to 52 mph and briefly reducing the visibility at Stapleton International Airport to less than 5/8 mile in blowing dust. The windstorm caused considerable damage to utility lines…homes…fences… Commercial buildings…autos…and schools. Heaviest damage was near the foothills where winds hit 80 mph at Boulder and at Rocky Flats northwest of Denver. The cold front caused temperatures to drop 13 degrees in one hour. Temperatures fell from a maximum of 61 degrees in the early afternoon to a minimum of 31 degrees before midnight.
In 1984…the coldest morning of the new year produced record breaking temperatures with a low of 19 degrees below zero for the date at Denver. Many other cities also reported record cold.
In 1985…highs winds occurred in the foothills with gusts reported to 60 mph at Evergreen. Northwest winds gusted to 38 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1986…wind gusts to 60 mph were reported in Boulder. West winds gusted to 31 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1999…damaging downslope winds caused problems in the foothills. In Eldora…the roof was blown off an a-frame house. Peak wind gusts included: 100 mph at central city…84 mph at Wondervu…77 mph atop Blue Mountain… 75 mph in Golden Gate Canyon…72 mph at the Rocky Flats Environmental Test Facility…and 70 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesa Laboratory near Boulder. West winds gusted to 36 mph and warmed the temperature to a high of 63 degrees…the highest reading of the month at Denver International Airport.
In 2006…high winds occurred in northern Jefferson and southern Boulder counties. A peak wind gust to 81 mph was recorded near Superior along with a gust to 80 mph near Boulder. Five teenagers started a grassfire near Plainview atop Rocky Flats. The high winds coupled with very dry conditions allowed the fire to quickly spread…forcing the evacuation of dozens of residents and the closure of State Highways 93 and 72. The fire consumed 2700 acres and destroyed two outbuildings. No homes were damaged and no one was injured by the blaze. West winds gusted to 30 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1980…a slow moving storm deposited 4 to 10 inches of snow across metro Denver with the greatest amounts in the foothills. Flights were delayed 30 to 40 minutes at Stapleton International Airport where snowfall totaled 5.5 inches and north winds gusted to 22 mph.
In 1988…a blizzard produced strong winds and heavy snow across eastern Colorado. Ten-foot drifts were common and many roads were closed including I-70…I-76…and I-25. In the Denver area…4.0 inches of snow fell at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusting to 40 mph reduced the visibility to 1/2 mile at times.
In 1958…snowfall totaled 6.9 inches at Stapleton Airport where east-northeast winds gusted to 26 mph on the 18th.
In 2005…a week of mid-winter unseasonably warm weather pushed high temperatures into the 60′s or more on all but one day. During the period…the highest temperature of 70 degrees on the 20th was a new record maximum for the date. Low temperatures remained above freezing on 4 of the days.