The talk of a major Colorado snowstorm started more than 5 days ahead of the first flakes falling on Saturday. Meteorologists talked about the possibilities and the concerns of this storm in great detail every day leading up to the event. After many viral social posts suggesting up to 7-feet of snow could fall on some communities, people’s thoughts on this storm really started going haywire and became unrealistic. Controlling that kind of hype is hard to do. Especially when the forecast called for Saturday to be a very bad and snowy day and that just didn’t happen. The storm was a slow mover and yes, that aspect of this storm was underplayed a bit. After much anticipation and criticism from the locals, the snow came, and I hope everyone is satisfied. People literally snowmobiled in Downtown Denver during what became the city’s 4th largest snowstorm in recorded history.
What started with large snowflakes Saturday afternoon led to brief lulls in the action leaving people a bit confused since this storm was supposed to be “such a bad storm.” Well, one of the nuances meteorologists were watching and noting was that this storm was a slow mover. When the storm finally positioned itself over southeastern Colorado Saturday night, it really started to crank up and blasted the Front Range with Upslope winds. For a perfect scenario to unfold that blasts Denver and the surrounding areas with a lot of snow, we need the center of a low-pressure system to track over SE Colorado. Due to the spin around a low-pressure system, winds around Denver will blow out of the east and north east. That wind direction forces air up the Rocky Mountains to our west and the Palmer Ridge to our south. When you have rising air, you get moisture. On top of this we had a strengthening storm that was collecting moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and slamming it up against the Rockies.
DEN airport all but completely shut down Sunday, travel in and out of Denver was impossible, multiple roads shut down including interstates and state roads and tens of thousands of people found themselves in the dark as power went out as trees snapped under the weight of the heavy snow. People were cross country skiing and snowshoeing around the metro area and cars quickly got stuck and buried under the feet of snow that fell.
Denver officially picked up 27.1-inches of snow during this storm making it the 4th largest snowstorm to ever hit the Mile High City and making it the 2nd largest March snowstorm behind the 2003 storm. Here is a look at Denver’s Top 10 largest snowstorms ever recorded.
45.7 | Dec 1-5, 1913
- 31.8 | Mar 17-19, 2003
- 30.4 | Nov 2-4, 1946
- 27.1 | March 13-15, 2021
- 23.8 | Dec 24, 1982
- 23.0 |Apr 23, 1885
- 22.7 | Oct 20-23, 1906
- 21.9 | Oct 24-25, 1997
- 21.5 | Nov 26-27, 1983
- 20.7 | Dec 20-21, 2006
- 19.3 | Jan 29-31, 1883
Denver has only recorded 3 storms with more than 2 feet of snow in 141 years of recorded weather history and now, we have a fourth storm on that list! The fact that this storm came together to create the perfect upslope storm during a La Niña winter (when we typically see less snow) is very impressive and speaks to the fact that weather, especially in a changing climate, can still do surprising things and create extremes. Don’t forget that we had our worst fire season ever, historic drought, some of the coldest air in decades and now one of the biggest snowstorms in history all impact the state in the last year.
One of the biggest benefits of this storm, no it’s not the workout out you’ll get from shoveling the weight of this snow, but the fact that there is so much moisture held in it. When all this snow melts, we will have seen the equivalent of more than 2-inches of liquid. Denver averages close to 14-inches of liquid precipitation per year so to gain a fraction of that in a 2-day period is a big feat and something that will have huge benefits for our drought concerns.
Some final snow totals from the area:
Cherry Creek Reservoir: 26.0”Longmont: 25.5”
Silver Plume: 30.0”
Castle Pines: 20.2”
Aspen Springs: 41.3”
Wheat Ridge: 22.2”
Fort Collins: 24.0”
Denver International Airport: 27.1”
Downtown Denver: 19.7”
Roads will remain tough to travel on through the end of the week. Sunshine is in the forecast, but more snow is also in the forecast. Tuesday night to Wednesday, a few additional inches of snow are possible but by this weekend, sunshine and 50s will help to melt this legendary snow away. I hope you enjoyed the weather history that literally happened outside your door and dammit, have some more faith in your local meteorologists. We hit this nail right on the head with ample warning time.