The chance of having snow actually fall on Christmas in Denver is relatively rare. That however does not mean the week between the holiday and New Year’s is uneventful as numerous notable and extreme weather events have occurred in the past.
As we start entering the coldest time of the year in Colorado we see events of extreme cold occurring. Most notable was one such event in 1983 that saw the mercury plunge below zero for nearly five days.
Snow as well is not unusual and snowstorms and blizzards can and do wreak havoc. Just five years ago a storm hit in the period between the holidays and snarled travel in the air and on the ground.
- Stay up to date with Denver’s weather: ‘Like’ us on Facebook, add us to your circles on Google+ and follow us on Twitter
From the National Weather Service:
In 1983…an extremely bitter cold spell occurred. The temperature remained below zero for 115 hours in Denver… The longest sub-zero period on record. The mercury dipped to 21 degrees below zero on the 21st…the coldest recorded temperature in over 20 years. The cold was accompanied by winds that plunged chill factors to 50 to 70 degrees below zero. Two people froze to death in Denver; both were found outside dead of exposure. Numerous cases of frostbite were reported. Hundreds of water pipes broke from the intense cold…water mains and natural gas lines also fractured…and electricity consumption reached record levels. Light snow totaling 5.8 inches fell at times…and holiday traffic was delayed at Stapleton International Airport for several hours. Eight daily temperature records were set at the time. The all-time record low maximum temperature for the month of 8 degrees below zero on the 21st still stands today. Other temperature records still standing include record low maximum temperatures of 5 degrees below zero on both the 22nd and 23rd and 4 degrees below zero on the 24th.
In 1891…heavy snowfall of 7.0 inches in downtown Denver provided a white Christmas. Most of the snow…6.5 inches… Fell on the 24th. Northwest winds were sustained to 30 mph with gusts to 40 mph on the 24th.
In 1894…snow began falling during the evening of the 24th… Ended during the early afternoon of the 25th…and totaled 6.4 inches in downtown Denver. Northwest winds were sustained to 26 mph with gusts to 30 mph on the 24th. The maximum snow depth on the ground was 5 inches. The high temperature was only 18 degrees on the 25th after a low of 8 degrees.
In 1980…strong Chinook winds of 50 to 60 mph occurred in the foothills with a wind gust to 90 mph recorded at Wondervu. West winds gusted to 33 mph at Stapleton International Airport on the 25th.
In 1997…a relatively rare Christmas snowstorm blanketed much of northeastern Colorado. Snowfall in and near the Front Range foothills and south of metro Denver ranged from 5 to 8 inches. Elsewhere…new snow accumulations were generally 1 to 3 inches. Snowfall totaled only 1.5 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. North winds gusted to 29 mph at Denver International Airport on the 24th.
In 1873…northwest winds were sustained to 36 mph during the morning and to 48 mph in the evening. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 53 degrees.
In 1883…gusty very strong winds raked Boulder…causing 11 hundred dollars in damage.
In 1985…Table Mesa in Boulder was buffeted by wind gusts to 68 mph.
In 1993…occasional high winds occurred over portions of the higher foothills west of Boulder and Denver. A wind gust to 87 mph was recorded on squaw mountain…and a gust to 83 mph occurred at Rollinsville. Northwest winds gusted to 35 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 2007…a winter storm brought heavy snow to the Front Range of Colorado. The heaviest snow fell near the foothills of Boulder…Douglas and Jefferson counties. The snow caused accidents throughout the Denver metropolitan area. Gusty winds produced snow drifts from 2 to 3.5 feet in depth. Total snowfall for the calendar day in Denver was 7.8 inches…setting a new record for Christmas Day. The measurement was taken at the former Stapleton International Airport; the previous record was 6.2 inches… Set in 1894. Storm totals in the Front Range foothills included: 13.5 inches at Coal Creek Canyon; 12 inches…5 miles east-southeast of Aspen Park; 11 inches; 6 miles southwest of kassler; 10.5 inches at Eldorado Springs. Elsewhere…storm totals ranged from 5 to 10 inches. In the urban corridor storm totals included: 9 inches near Elizabeth; 8 inches in southwest Denver…Highlands Ranch…Marston Reservoir and Wheat Ridge; 7.5 inches in Arvada; 7 inches in Centennial and Lakewood; 6.5 inches in Aurora and 8 miles southeast of Watkins; 6 inches in Boulder…Englewood and Parker. Elsewhere…storm totals ranged from 3 to 5 inches.
In 1904…after a warm Christmas Fay with a high temperature of 50 degrees…a late day cold front plunged temperatures to a low of 7 degrees…produced northeast winds sustained to 40 mph with gusts to 54 mph…and produced 5.2 inches of snow overnight for a late white Christmas. The maximum temperature on the 26th was only 16 degrees.
25-31 in 1980…temperatures were unusually warm during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. High temperatures for the week ranged from the mid-50′s to the mid-70′s. Four temperature records were set. Record highs occurred on the 26th with 68 degrees…the 27th with 75 degrees…and the 30th with 71 degrees. A record high minimum temperature of 41 degrees occurred on the 27th.
In 1877…heavy snow fell during the early morning and totaled nearly 6 inches. Precipitation from melted snow was 0.58 inch. After the snowfall…a number of sleighs were seen on the city streets.
In 1879…after a morning low of 4 degrees below zero… The temperature climbed to a high of 57 degrees in the city.
In 1907…west winds were sustained to 40 mph. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 62 degrees.
In 1949…west winds gusted to 50 mph at Stapleton Airport.
In 1998…intense…but localized…downslope high winds developed near Wondervu in the foothills southwest of Boulder. Winds frequently gusted to 100 mph with a highest reported wind gust to 104 mph. West winds gusted to only 43 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1954…a major storm dumped heavy snow across metro Denver. Snowfall totaled 8.6 inches at Stapleton Airport. The storm produced the heaviest snowfall of the calendar year and was the only measurable snowfall in December.
In 1987…a snowstorm stalled in northeastern Colorado…giving metro Denver its worst winter storm in 4 years. Total snowfall from the storm ranged from 12 to 18 inches on the east side…1 to 2 feet in Boulder County…and 2 to 3 feet in western and southern parts of metro Denver. The largest reported snowfall was 42 inches at Intercanyon in the foothills southwest of Denver. Snowfall totaled 14.9 inches at Stapleton International Airport. Winds were light on the 26th…but increased as high as 40 mph on the 27th… Creating near-blizzard conditions and forcing complete closure of Stapleton International Airport for about 8 hours. The strong winds whipped drifts to 5 feet high on the east side of town. All interstate highways leading from Denver were closed on the 27th.
In 1979 a heavy snow storm dumped 6 to 10 inches of snow over the metro area and 15 to 20 inches at Boulder with up to 2 feet in the foothills west of Boulder. Heavy snowfall totaled 6.0 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 21 mph. Most of the snow… 4.8 inches…fell on the 27th.
In 1895…west Chinook winds sustained to 44 mph with gusts to 48 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 52 degrees.
In 1901…an apparent cold front produced sustained north winds to 41 mph with gusts to 48 mph.
In 1957…northwest winds gusting to 52 mph produced some blowing dust across metro Denver.
In 1975…a northwest wind gust to 53 mph was recorded at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1976…a strong pacific cold front moving across metro Denver produced a northwest wind gust to 53 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1990…high winds raked the eastern foothills with a wind gust to 84 mph clocked on Fritz Peak near Rollinsville. The strong northwest winds of 50 to 70 mph whipped newly fallen snow over higher areas into billowy clouds several hundred feet high that could be seen from most locations across metro Denver.
In 1996…another round of high winds developed over portions of the Front Range foothills during the morning hours. Several wind gusts from 70 to 100 mph were reported at Wondervu southwest of Boulder. West-northwest winds gusted to 38 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 2005…a trained weather observer in Georgetown recorded a wind gust to 94 mph. No damage was reported.
In 2007…a winter storm brought heavy snow to portions of the urban corridor and adjacent plains. Storm totals generally ranged from 3 to 7 inches. Locally heavier bands produced up to 10 inches of snow. In the urban corridor…storm totals included: 10 inches…10 miles south-southeast of Buckley AFB and at Castle Pines; 9.5 inches…4 miles south-southeast of Aurora and Kassler; 7.5 inches…2 miles southeast of Highlands Ranch; 7 inches in Aurora and Sedalia; 6.5 inches in Arvada…4 miles east of Denver and Lafayette; 6 inches in Castle Rock and Thornton. A measurement of 5.4 inches was taken at the former Stapleton International Airport. The official total for the month was 20.9 inches; making it the 6th snowiest December on record.
On 1997…high winds combined with fresh snow from a previous storm caused highways to become slick from drifting snow and near whiteout conditions in localized ground blizzards. Strong winds blew snow across the runways at centennial airport…which glazed over and formed areas of ice. Two planes were damaged when they slid off the runway while landing. No injuries were reported. Numerous accidents also occurred on I-25 and I-70 as ice formed under the same conditions. A rollover accident which injured 4 people on State Highway 93 near the Rocky Flats Environmental Test Facility was also attributed to the high winds. The high winds caused an office building and showroom under construction in Golden to collapse. The largest wall was 180 feet long and 28 feet high. Some high wind reports included: 86 mph at Golden Gate Canyon…72 mph near Conifer…and 70 mph at Jefferson County Airport and the National Center for Atmospheric Research on the mesa near Boulder. West-northwest winds gusted to 53 mph at Denver International Airport on the 27th.
In 1998…damaging downslope winds formed in and near the foothills. Peak wind gusts ranged from 71 to 114 mph. Numerous trees were blown down in Coal Creek Canyon and near Gross Reservoir. Power lines were blown down… Resulting in scattered outages. Peak wind reports included: 114 mph at Wondervu…92 mph in Golden Gate Canyon…88 mph in Coal Creek Canyon…and 79 mph 8 miles west of conifer. West winds gusted to 46 mph at Denver International Airport on the 28th.
In 1983…a second surge of bitter cold air in less than a week was less intense. Record breaking low temperatures of 12 degrees below zero on the 28th and 15 degrees below zero on the 29th were accompanied by 3.7 inches of snowfall and northeast winds gusting to 23 mph.
In 2001…brief high winds developed in the foothills west of Denver. Winds gusted to 86 mph on Fritz Peak near Rollinsville. West to northwest winds gusted to 39 mph at Denver International Airport where the temperature climbed to a high of 51 degrees.
28-29 in 1906…a trace of snow fell on both days…which along with a trace of snow on the 5th…was the only snow of the month…ranking the month the second least snowiest December on record.
In 1970…wind gusts to 87 mph were recorded at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. Winds gusted to only 46 mph in downtown Boulder. Damage was minor.
In 2006…while metro Denver residents were still digging out from the heavy snowfall and blizzard that occurred on December 20-21…the second major winter storm in a week buried the city and the eastern foothills again in more deep snow. Heavy snowfall ranged from 1 to 2 1/2 feet in the foothills and from 6 to 18 inches across the city. Another slow moving storm system centered over the Texas panhandle produced deep upslope flow over the high plains and against the Front Range mountains. The storm produced blizzard conditions over the plains mainly south of Interstate 76. Interstate 70 as well as other roads and highways was closed from Denver to the Kansas line due to snow and blizzard conditions. Greyhound was forced to cancel all bus trips from Denver. The heaviest snow fell in and near the foothills and south of Denver over the palmer divide…where north winds sustained at speeds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 40 mph piled the snow into drifts 4 to 14 feet deep. In the city…the heavy snowfall persisted for a total of 29 hours. Snowfall totals across metro Denver included: 17.5 inches at Ken Caryl; 15 inches 3 miles south-southeast of Morrison; 14 inches in Boulder and Lone Tree; 12 inches in Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch; 11 inches in Wheat Ridge; 10.5 inches in Littleton; 10 inches in Arvada…Broomfield…and Louviers; and 8.5 inches in Lakewood and Thornton. Officially…snowfall totaled 8.0 inches at Denver Stapleton. North winds sustained to 25 mph with gusts to 32 mph produced some blowing snow at Denver International Airport. In the city…this second storm increased the total snowfall for the month to 29.4 inches…making the month the third snowiest on record. In the foothills the snow fell at a rate of 3 to 4 inches an hour at times. Total snowfall in the foothills included: 30 inches near Genesee; 29.5 inches 12 miles northwest of Golden; 25 inches in Evergreen and near Bergen Park; 24 inches near conifer; 23.5 inches 3 miles southwest of Golden and near gold hill; 23 inches near Jamestown; 22.5 inches in Rollinsville; 19.5 inches in Aspen Springs; 19 inches near Blackhawk; 18.5 inches at Nederland; 16 inches in Indian Hills…at Intercanyon…and in Eldora; 15.5 inches at Echo Lake; and 12 inches near Ralston Reservoir. The total cost of snow removal just at Denver International Airport from this storm and the previous storm was in tens of millions of dollars. The airport estimated up to 6.7 million dollars in extra costs for contractors…overtime…equipment…de-icing chemicals…and other expenses. The two storms cost the airport 4.6 million dollars in loss concession revenues. United airlines reported lost revenue of over 25 million dollars from the two storms…while Frontier Airlines lost an estimated 12.1 million dollars.
In 1997…high winds persisted mainly in and near the foothills. Strong cross winds gusting between 60 and 70 mph blew a rental truck off the roadway in northern Jefferson County near the Coal Creek Canyon road. West winds gusted to 33 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 2005…high winds were recorded across metro Denver. Peak wind gusts included 75 mph near Chatfield Reservoir and 64 mph at Denver International Airport. No damage was reported.
In 1898…heavy snowfall totaled 6.2 inches in downtown Denver. Northeast winds were sustained to 35 mph with gusts to 40 mph on the 29th.
In 1912…strong winds buffeted Boulder…causing hundreds of dollars damage. The winds were described as one of the most terrific in the history of the city.
In 1923…a cold wave caused temperatures to plunge 58 degrees in 24 hours. The temperature was 54 degrees at 2:00 pm on the 29th and only 4 degrees below zero at the same time on the 30th. The low temperature of 14 degrees on the 29th was the high temperature on the 30th. The low temperature on the 30th dipped to 10 degrees below zero. Light snowfall totaled only 0.7 inch. Northeast winds were sustained to 23 mph on the 29th.
In 2008…very strong Chinook winds blasted areas in and near the foothills of Boulder and Jefferson counties. The wind blew down trees and power poles…downed electrical lines and fences…and damaged homes and vehicles. Scattered power outages were reported along the Front Range. In metropolitan Denver alone…24000 Xcel customers were affected by the outages. Four planed were damaged at the Vance Brand Municipal Airport in Longmont…one was heavily damaged. Insurance companies estimated up to 7 million dollars in damage. Peak wind gusts included 87 mph at the national wind technology center…86 mph…2 miles north of Longmont; 77 mph at Erie…and 75 mph at Lafayette. On the 30th…a peak wind gust to 47 mph was recorded at Denver International Airport. .
In 1875…snow fell from the early morning into the early evening. While the amount of snowfall was not recorded… Precipitation from melted snow totaled 0.53 inch. Good sleighing was reported…so snowfall must have been 5 inches or more.
In 1895…northwest winds were sustained to 60 mph in the city.
In 1897…west winds sustained to 52 mph with gusts to 60 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 55 degrees.
In 1912…west winds were sustained to 48 mph with gusts to 52 mph. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 50 degrees.
In 1928…snowfall was 0.1 inch in downtown Denver. This was the only measurable snow of the month…ranking the month the third least snowiest on record in the city.
In 1990…strong downslope winds buffeted the eastern foothills. Wind gusts to 91 mph were recorded atop Table Mesa in southwest Boulder…while a gust to 94 mph was clocked at Rollinsville. The high winds caused whiteout conditions due to blowing snow along some highways south and north of Boulder. The high winds downed power lines near the Rocky Flats plant south of Boulder.
In 1998…high winds continued to buffet areas in and near the foothills. Near Evergreen…a 100-foot-high blue spruce crashed down on the roof of a home…splitting the corrugated metal roof in half. Fortunately…the tree… Which measured 10 feet in circumference…only penetrated the home’s interior in a few places. Peak wind reports included: 90 mph at Wondervu…88 mph at the Rocky Flats test facility…83 mph near conifer…and 82 mph atop Blue Mountain near Coal Creek Canyon. West winds gusted to 39 mph at Denver International Airport.
In 1886…heavy snow totaled 6.5 inches in downtown Denver. Most of the snow…4.5 inches…fell on the 31st. North winds were sustained to 18 mph.
In 1928…snowfall of 0.6 inch was the only measurable snow of the month in the city.
In 1947…post-frontal heavy snow totaled 6.3 inches over downtown Denver. Most of the snow fell on the 30th. North winds were sustained to 17 mph on the 30th.
In 1995…the foothills west of Denver received 5 to 9 inches of new snow…except for Bailey where 11 inches of snow were measured. No snow fell at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.
In 1890…northeast winds were sustained to 46 mph with gusts as high as 60 mph behind an apparent cold front. A trace of sleet fell.
In 1899…northwest winds were sustained to 44 mph with gusts as high as 48 mph. The Chinook winds warmed the temperature to a high of 49 degrees.
In 1927…the temperature was below zero all day. The high temperature of 3 degrees below zero was a record low maximum for the date. The low temperature was 11 degrees below zero.
In 1970…warm Chinook winds whistled through Boulder. A wind gust to 92 mph was recorded at the National Center for Atmospheric Research…while at the National Bureau of Standards…winds peaked to 70 mph. Northwest winds gusting to 30 mph warmed the temperature to a high of 60 degrees at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1993…occasional high winds occurred northwest of Denver and in the foothills. A wind gust to 85 mph was recorded at Jefferson County Airport in Broomfield. Wind gusts to 86 mph occurred on Squaw Mountain with 75 mph recorded at Rollinsville. West winds gusted to 46 mph at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1900…low temperatures dipped to 19 degrees below zero on both days to establish daily record minimum temperatures.
In 1975…only 4.2 inches of snow fell at Stapleton International Airport…while north of Denver a major blizzard raged. All roads north of Denver into Wyoming were closed when strong winds whipped snow into 5 to 6 foot drifts. North winds gusted to 43 mph at Stapleton International Airport on the 31st…causing some blowing snow. Freezing drizzle also fell on the 31st.
In 1984…heavy snow fell in the foothills with 8 inches at Boulder and 6 inches in southern and western metro Denver. Only 1.5 inches of snow fell overnight at Stapleton International Airport.
In 1991…a new year’s eve snow storm dumped 2 to 8 inches of snow across northeastern Colorado. Snowfall totaled 3.4 inches at Stapleton International Airport. The 1.9 inches of snow that fell on the 31st was the only measurable snowfall of the month.
In 2008…another brief period of high winds occurred in and near the foothills of Boulder and Jefferson counties. In Nederland…the strong wind snapped a blue spruce which landed on a nearby propane tank. Some roofs in the immediate area were damaged and power lines were downed; which left 126 residences without electricity for six hours. Peak wind gusts included 90 mph at the national wind technology center…and 89 mph; 6 miles northwest of Boulder. At Denver International Airport…a peak wind gust of 23 mph was measured from the southwest.
In 1973…the 31st marked the start of a protracted cold spell that extended into January of 1974 when temperatures dipped below zero on 7 consecutive days. Record daily minimum readings occurred on the 3rd and 5th when the temperature plunged to 17 degrees below zero on both days. A record low daily maximum temperature of only 4 degrees occurred on the 5th.
In 1941…a protracted cold spell through January 7…1942… Produced below zero low temperatures on 7 of the 8 days. A low temperature of 2 degrees on the 3rd prevented a string of 8 days below zero. The coldest days during the period were the 1st with a high of 2 degrees and a low of 9 degrees below zero…the 4th with a high of 2 degrees and a low of 11 degrees below zero…and the 5th with a high of 26 degrees and a low of 12 degrees below zero.