Extreme weather can and does occur in the Mile High City every month of the year. This week in Denver weather history we have seen many notable events associated with January including deadly cold, damaging wind and significant snowstorms.
It was in 1948 from the 22nd to the 26th that Denver recorded its longest period of snowfall on record. Snow fell for 92 hours and 3 minutes bringing a total of 19.0 inches to the city. The measurement is the heaviest snow ever recorded during January and at the time was the fifth heaviest snow ever.
Cold was the primary weather hazard from January 15 to January 23 in 1962. An extended period of extreme cold sent the mercury plummeting as low temperatures during the nine day period were at or below zero degrees. A record low temperature of 14 degrees below zero was recorded on the 22nd and a record low maximum of 11 degrees was set on the same date. Weather-related fatalities were recorded from traffic accidents, overexertion and exposure.
On January 23, 1988 wind was the major story of the day. A powerful windstorm wreaked havoc from Colorado Springs to the Wyoming border. Gusts in excess of 100 mph were recorded in the foothills breaking windows, downing power lines and trees. Nine concrete girders erected for a viaduct, each weighing 45 tons, were blown off their supports in Boulder. Cars on I-70 near Morrison were blown off the road by the powerful wind gusts.
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 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 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 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.
In 1883…the low temperature dropped to 20 degrees below zero…and the high temperature of only 9 degrees below zero was the record low maximum for January…which was equaled on January 11…1963.
In 1887…west winds sustained to 48 mph warmed the temperature in the city to a high of 67 degrees…which was the highest temperature of the month that year.
In 1890…northwest winds were sustained to 42 mph with gusts to 45 mph in the city.
In 1903…northwest winds were sustained to 40 mph with an extreme velocity of 44 mph.
In 1911…west Chinook winds sustained to 42 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 66 degrees.
In 1916…sleet (grains of ice) fell for 15 minutes. This is a rare occurrence in Denver.
In 1990…7 to 10 inches of snow fell across metro Denver. Strong winds…drifting snow…and poor visibility caused the closure of I-70 from Denver east to the Kansas border. However…at Stapleton International Airport north winds gusted to only 17 mph. Several schools and businesses were forced to close. Weather-related delays of up to 90 minutes hampered aircraft operations at Stapleton International Airport where snowfall from the storm totaled 7.5 inches.
In 2002…high winds occurred over portions of the northern mountains and eastern foothills. Wind reports included: 74 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research atop the mesa in Boulder and 71 mph at the Eldora Ski Resort west of Boulder.
In 2003…a wind gust to 75 mph was recorded at the National Wind Technology Center atop Rocky Flats to the northwest of Denver. West winds gusted to 36 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1935…snowfall of only 0.8 inch during the evening of the 19th was the only measurable snowfall of the month. The light snow developed behind an arctic cold front as temperatures plunged to a low of 13 degrees below zero on the 20th. High temperature of only 2 degrees on the 20th was a record low maximum for the date. Northeast winds were sustained to 16 mph on the 19th.
In 1986…Chinook winds gusting to 39 mph at Stapleton International Airport provided record breaking warmth. The warmest temperature of the month…68 degrees on the 19th…was also a record high for the date. The low temperature of 41 degrees on the 20th equaled the record high minimum for the date.
In 1991…a strong cold front moved south across metro Denver. Upslope conditions produced 3 to 6 inches of snow along the Front Range with 5 inches in Westminster and 4 inches in Thornton. Snowfall measured 4.9 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 31 mph.
In 1894…northwest winds were sustained to 40 mph with gusts to 45 mph in the city.
In 1911…west Chinook winds sustained to 46 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 62 degrees.
In 1975…a warm Chinook wind produced a west wind gust to 53 mph at Stapleton International Airport. Winds were much stronger near the foothills…where 80 mph winds in Boulder caused damage to homes…buildings…power lines… And autos.
In 1986…high winds buffeted the foothills from Denver north. The strongest reported wind was 72 mph in Fort Collins. A wind gust to 39 mph was reported at Stapleton International Airport in Denver.
In 1996…high winds developed for a short time in the Front Range foothills in the wake of a weak upper level disturbance. Wondervu recorded a peak wind gust to 90 mph… While winds gusted to 84 mph atop squaw mountain near Idaho Springs. West winds gusted to only 29 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 2011…a snowboarder and his dog were killed when he triggered an avalanche in the backcountry northeast of Berthoud Pass.
In 1973…a major storm produced 7.5 inches of snowfall at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 32 mph causing some blowing snow.
In 2002…high winds developed over portions of the northern mountains and Front Range foothills. Several trees were blown down in Gilpin County along State Highways 119 and 46. Wind gust reports included: 90 mph 11 miles north of Central City…83 mph near Fritz Peak…76 mph at Aspen Springs…and 80 mph at Nederland. West winds gusted to only 39 mph at Denver International Airport on the 20th.
In 1937…a second incursion of cold arctic in less than two weeks kept temperatures in the deep freeze for three days… Even though only one temperature record was set during the period. Temperatures were below zero for an estimated 53 consecutive hours. The below zero period would have been longer had the temperatures on the 20th not climbed to a high of 1 degree after a low of 8 degrees below zero. On the 21st…the high temperature of 1 degree below zero was a record low maximum for the date. Low readings on both the 21st and 22nd were 9 degrees below zero.
In 1971…high winds raked Boulder. Wind gusts to 77 mph were recorded at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Winds gusted to 83 mph in south Boulder and to 68 mph in downtown Boulder. Minor personal injuries occurred…and reported damage to structures totaled 15 thousand dollars. On the 21st…northwest winds gusted to 44 mph at Stapleton International Airport. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 69 degrees on the 20th…which equaled the record for the date.
In 1993…sporadic high winds along the east slopes of the Front Range during the early morning hours of the 20th moved onto the foothills and plains by the 22nd. Wind gusts of 55 to 65 mph were common. Some significant wind reports included 82 mph at Rollinsville and atop Squaw Mountain west of Denver…and 75 mph on Rocky Flats. At Stapleton International Airport…west winds gusted to 35 mph on the 20th…44 mph on the 21st…and 55 mph on the 22nd.
In 1897…west winds were sustained to 40 mph with gusts to 45 mph. The warm Chinook winds produced a high temperature of 51 degrees and a low temperature of 36 degrees.
In 1943…strong west winds gusted to 92 mph at Boulder airport. Strong winds were common along the foothills. Some damage occurred.
In 1950…wind gusts to 50 mph produced some blowing dust at Stapleton Airport.
In 1997…high winds along the Front Range foothills caused an empty 18-wheeler to overturn on I-70 near the Morrison and C-470 exits. The truck landed on top of a passenger car traveling beside it. The drivers received only minor injuries. West-northwest winds gusted to 36 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 2007…two storm systems…one moving to the south and east of the region…and the other brushing from the west… Contributed to heavy snow along the Front Range foothills… Urban corridor and adjacent plains. The heaviest snow fell south and east of Denver where a blizzard developed during the late morning and early afternoon hours. In and near the Front Range foothills and Palmer Divide…storm totals ranged from 6 to 15 inches. Very strong winds produced extensive blowing and drifting snow along I-70…from just east of Denver to near Limon. Sustained winds from 30 to 45 mph were measured with peak gusts to 60 mph. As a result…snow drifts 2 to 4 feet in depth made some roads impassable with whiteout conditions reported. North winds gusted to 40 mph at Denver International Airport. Snowfall totaled 6.1 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.
In 1972…wind gusts to 74 mph were recorded at the National Bureau of Standards in Boulder…while in downtown Boulder wind gusts to 56 mph were measured. The strong winds overturned a plane at the Arapahoe County airport. A motorcyclist died of injuries when he was blown off a Boulder County road. Northwest winds gusted to 39 mph at Stapleton International Airport on the 21st.
In 1999…heavy snow developed across portions of metro Denver and in the foothills. Snowfall totals included: 8 inches in Golden Gate Canyon…Intercanyon…Rollinsville… And Parker; 7 inches at Aspen Springs…Gross Reservoir… Pine Junction…and 5 miles south of Sedalia; 6 inches at Highlands Ranch; and 5 inches at Eaglecrest…Eldorado Springs…and Louisville. Snowfall totaled 2.6 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. On the 21st…north-northwest winds gusted to 31 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1899…a cold front produced northeast sustained winds to 50 mph with gusts to 60 mph in the city.
In 1951…a heavy windstorm struck Boulder. Minor damage was reported. Strong post-frontal east winds gusted to 45 mph at Stapleton Airport.
In 1990…strong winds of 50 to 90 mph buffeted the foothills. No significant damage was reported. West winds gusted to 37 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1992…strong winds raked the eastern foothills with a wind gust to 58 mph recorded at Rocky Flats just northwest of Denver. West winds gusted to only 25 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 2003…only a trace of snow fell at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. This along with a trace of snow on the 1st was the only snow of the month…which equaled the record for the least snowiest January first set in 1934.
In 1982…wind gusts up to 101 mph were clocked at Wondervu. Wind gusts of 60 to 80 mph were common along the Front Range foothills from Boulder north.
In 1948…the longest period of snowfall on record (92 hours and 3 minutes) occurred in downtown Denver where a total of 13.6 inches of snow fell. At Stapleton Airport…19.0 inches of snow fell…making it the heaviest snow in January and the 5th heaviest snow of record at that time. North winds were sustained to a velocity of 23 mph on the 25th…but generally the winds were light throughout the storm. The snow disrupted traffic…but street clearing was begun soon after it became apparent that the snow would be heavy. Over the 5 days…temperatures ranged from a high of 48 degrees on the 22nd to a low of 1 degree on the 26th. Most readings were in the teens and 20′s during the storm.
In 1872…a brisk northerly wind set in about noon…blew almost a gale about 6:00 pm…and continued brisk until night. A light snow commenced during the late afternoon and continued all night.
In 1886…northwest winds were sustained to 40 mph in the city around sunrise. A cold wave accompanied the strong winds.
In 1897…a vigorous cold front produced northeast winds sustained to 45 mph with gusts to 50 mph. Temperatures plunged from a high of 59 degrees to a low of 11 degrees in the evening. The very cold temperatures persisted through the 28th.
In 1934…the date marked the last day of the longest period of consecutive days without measurable precipitation in the city. The 52 day period began on December 3…1933.
In 1988…one of the strongest windstorms in several years pounded the Front Range foothills from Colorado Springs north to the Wyoming border. The highest wind gust at lower elevations was 105 mph recorded at Table Mesa in Boulder. Other sections of Boulder recorded wind gusts of 80 to 90 mph. In Boulder…the high winds broke windows and damaged power lines and transformers. Power outages were widespread and traffic lights were downed. The winds blew down a partially constructed viaduct in east Boulder. Nine unanchored concrete girders…each weighing 45 tons…were blown off their supports. Cars were blown off I-70 near Morrison…and a tractor trailer and a mobile home were knocked over. In Lakewood…an electric company crewman was burned while replacing a power line. Wind gusts to 92 mph were clocked at Jefferson County Airport in Broomfield before the site anemometer was blown down by the wind. The strong winds spread over all the metro area with a northwest wind gust to 52 mph recorded at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1992…high winds buffeted the eastern foothills. A wind gust to 63 mph was recorded at Rocky Flats northwest of Denver. West winds gusted to 40 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 2002…low level upslope flow combined with an upper level jet stream created bands of heavy snow over portions of the Front Range foothills and metro Denver. The areas hardest hit were the foothills of Jefferson and Douglas counties and the I-25 corridor from the southern suburbs of Denver to around Castle Rock. Snow totals included: 9 inches at Intercanyon…Roxborough State Park…and near Sedalia; 8.5 inches atop Crow Hill and near tiny town; 8 inches at Ken Caryl and near Castle Rock; 7 inches in Lakewood; 6.5 inches at Littleton; and 6 inches in Castle Rock. Only 3.6 inches of snow were measured at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.
In 1921…heavy snowfall in downtown Denver totaled 8.0 inches overnight. Northwest winds were sustained to 22 mph with gusts to 25 mph on the 24th.
In 1887…west winds sustained to 44 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 56 degrees in the city.
In 1890…northwest winds sustained to 48 mph with gusts to 60 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 63 degrees.
In 1900…west winds were sustained to 44 mph with an extreme velocity of 46 mph. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 57 degrees.
In 1934…a trace of snowfall resulted in precipitation of 0.01 inch in downtown Denver. This was the only measurable amount of precipitation for the month…making the month one of the driest January’s on record.
In 1956…west-northwest winds gusted to 51 mph at Stapleton Airport. Strong and gusty winds persisted throughout the day.
In 1972…a west wind gust to 92 mph was recorded in Boulder at the National Bureau of Standards…while in downtown Boulder a wind gust to only 66 mph was measured. In Denver…a car was demolished when the wind blew a traffic light pole onto it…and a wooden wall at a construction site was blown over damaging two cars. Northwest winds gusted to 55 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1982…strong winds were again reported along the eastern foothills. While the most damage occurred in the Fort Collins area…Boulder did not entirely escape. Nine planes were damaged at the Boulder airport along with 4 mobile homes and many cars in the Boulder area. A school in central city was damaged. A water tank in Parker collapsed. The strongest wind gust recorded was 140 mph at Wondervu. Wind gusts reached 92 mph in Boulder. Northwest wind gusts to 61 mph were recorded at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1992…for the third day…high winds raked the eastern foothills. Winds gusted to 105 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. Several tractor trailers were overturned along State Highway 93…between Boulder and Golden. Traffic lights and signs were knocked down in Boulder. Other wind reports included: 86 mph at Rocky Flats…100 mph on Fritz Peak near Rollinsville…and 93 mph in north Boulder. West winds gusted to 37 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1916…a trace of light rain…rare in Denver for January… Occurred on both days.
In 1946…high winds occurred in Boulder and along the foothills to the north. A wind gust to 72 mph was recorded at Valmont.
In 1947…strong winds were measured in Boulder. Hourly wind gusts averaged 72 mph at Valmont east of Boulder.
In 1950…heavy snowfall totaled 7.1 inches at Stapleton Airport and 6.8 inches in downtown Denver.
In 1970…a wind gust to 122 mph was recorded at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder on the 24th. Winds also gusted to 109 mph at NCAR on the 26th. Most winds were estimated between 60 and 70 mph in Boulder. Damage…in most cases…was from broken windows and tree limbs and downed power lines. A roof was blown off a house in Eldorado Springs south of Boulder. A building under construction was damaged in Boulder. Reported damage totaled 25 hundred dollars in Boulder. Northwest winds gusted to 47 mph at Stapleton International Airport on the 24th. In Denver…the Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a record high of 68 degrees on the 24th.
In 1872…the greatest temperature change in one day…66 degrees…from a low of 20 degrees below zero…a record low for the date…to a high of 46 degrees…occurred.
In 1888…west winds sustained to 42 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 58 degrees.
In 1890…northwest Chinook winds gusting as high as 48 mph resulted in two temperature records. High temperature of 72 degrees was a record maximum for the date. Low temperature of only 48 degrees was a record high minimum for the date.
In 1914…Chinook winds from the northwest sustained to 46 mph with gusts as high as 60 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 52 degrees. The low temperature was only 39 degrees.
In 1923…snowfall of 1.3 inches was the only measurable snow of the month.
In 1931…snowfall of 0.1 inch was the only measurable snow of the month. The melted snow totaled only 0.02 inch of precipitation…which was the only measurable amount of the month. This resulted in the 4th driest January on record.
In 1964…high winds occurred in Boulder…Golden…and Broomfield where a wind gust to 80 mph was recorded at Jefferson County Airport. Some power lines were downed. Damage to buildings and vehicles was also reported. West-northwest winds gusted to 46 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1971…the highest recorded wind gust in the state of Colorado…147 mph…occurred at the National Center for Atmospheric Research on the mesa in southwest Boulder. Wind gusts to 91 mph were measured at the National Bureau of Standards and to 87 mph in downtown Boulder. A wind gust to 75 mph was recorded at Jefferson County Airport in Broomfield. The strong winds caused widespread minor damage in Boulder. Northwest winds gusting to 32 mph at Stapleton International Airport warmed the temperature to a high of 55 degrees.
In 1980…a blizzard struck Denver right at the evening rush hours…causing massive traffic snarls and forcing the closure of I-25 north of Denver and I-70 east of the city as well as many other roads. Hundreds of travelers were stranded. Multi-car accidents involving as many as 50 cars were common. Air traffic at Stapleton International Airport was stalled for 3 hours. Winds gusted to 50 or 60 mph with visibility reduced to zero at times. The high winds knocked out electrical power in Broomfield. During the height of the storm…temperatures plunged from the freezing mark at mid-afternoon to only 5 degrees before midnight. Initial snowfall from the storm was only 3 to 5 inches across metro Denver with 4.1 inches measured at Stapleton International Airport where north wind gusts to 58 mph were recorded.
In 1988…high winds pummeled the eastern foothills with a peak gust to 96 mph recorded near Rollinsville. A gust to 109 mph was recorded at Echo Lake. West winds gusted to 48 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1996…heavy snow fell along the Front Range foothills. Snow accumulations of 4 to 8 inches were measured from I-25 west into the foothills with lighter accumulations reported elsewhere. Snowfall totaled only 0.9 inch at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.
In 2004…locally heavy snow fell across metro Denver. The heaviest snow was south of Denver and in the foothills. Snowfall totals included: 9 inches near Indian Hills… 8.5 inches near Franktown and 9 miles southwest of Sedalia…8 inches 7 miles southwest of Aurora…and 6 inches in Highlands Ranch. Snowfall was only 2.8 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. North winds gusted to 35 mph at Denver International Airport
In 2008…strong westerly winds blew out three windows at a Chipotle restaurant in Louisville. Two people were taken to the hospital for minor cuts. At Denver International Airport…northeast winds gusted to 35 mph.
In 1910…gale force westerly winds of great velocity struck Boulder. Some damage was reported. West winds were sustained to 45 mph in Denver on the 25th.
In 1897…a cold spell resulted in three temperature records. Low temperature of 14 degrees below zero on the 27th was a record minimum for the date. High temperatures of only 3 degrees on the 25th and 2 degrees on the 26th were record low maximums for the dates. Very light snow or flurries fell on the 25th and 26th at times.