Weathering Spring Break

Its been a very long time (1981) since I was a student and had a true spring break. That said, I’ve been in relationship with teachers most of my life, and had colleagues with school age kids in my medical practice. The last week of March remains spring break in my mind. The University of Colorado’s academic calendar has had this week for as long as I can recall. When I was a kid, Boulder was more or less a company town for CU, and so the school district calendar followed suit, in what is now an at least a 60 year tradition.

Weather wise, its a real crap shoot this time of year. It can be gorgeous and sunny, with highs in the 60’s and 70’s. That’s the exception. We can also get snowfall measured in feet. That’s also a bit exceptional. I looked up the weather range for this time of year, and its pretty huge, with record lows in sub zero territory and record highs in the 80’s (we still do Fahrenheit here in the US)

The National Weather Service compiles a “this day in weather history” for the area, which I find interesting, and here’s the report today’s date:  NWS Boulder Denver Weather History March 26

1886: Heavy snowfall totaled 7.1 inches in downtown Denver.

1899: A major storm dumped 13.1 inches of heavy snow over downtown Denver. Rain changed to snow around mid- morning on the 25th. Snowfall became heavy and continued until late evening on the 26th. North to northeast winds gusted to 30 mph on both days. The cold air mass plunged temperatures from a high of 55 degrees on the 25th to a low of 8 degrees on the 26th.

1899: A major winter storm dumped 11.3 inches of snow over downtown Denver.

1904: Heavy snowfall totaled 7.0 inches in downtown Denver.

1910: West winds were sustained to 42 mph. A snow shower produced a trace of snow.

1911: Post-frontal north winds were sustained to 48 mph on the 26th and to 47 mph on the 27th.

1931: A cold front brought snow and very cold weather to the city. Snowfall totaled 7.3 inches over downtown Denver with most of the snow, 6.4 inches, occurring on the 26th, when northwest winds were sustained to 38 mph with gusts to 44 mph. High temperature of 31 degrees on the 26th equaled the low temperature of the previous day as the temperature plunged to a low of 1 degree below zero. High temperature of only 15 degrees on the 27th was a record low maximum for the date. Low temperature of 2 degrees below zero on the 27th was not a record.

1935: A severe dust storm swept across the city. The dense dust blew in on a gale from the east-northeast. The dust bank was first visible on the northeastern horizon at about 2:00 PM. It advanced toward the city as a rolling, swirling, yellowish-to smoke-black cloud. At 2:06 PM, the cloud of dust enveloped the station. Before the storm the visibility was unlimited. At 2:08 PM, the visibility was reduced to 1/8th mile. By 2:25 PM, the visibility was increasing and was above 1000 feet at 3:10 PM. Thereafter, the sun appeared as a dim ball of fire at times. The dust was partially gone at 8:30 PM. During the storm, northeast winds were sustained to 32 mph with gusts as high as 35 mph.

1959: The second major spring storm in less than a week dumped 10 to 20 inches of wet snow across northeastern Colorado. Snowfall totaled 14.3 inches at Stapleton Airport where north winds gusted to 36 mph, causing near- blizzard conditions with visibilities frequently reduced to 1/2 mile in snow and blowing snow. Many travelers were marooned when trains, planes, and buses were unable to make their schedules. Utility lines were again damaged as a result of the storm.

1971: The highest recorded temperature in March, 84 degrees, occurred. This was the highest temperature recorded so early in the season. Previously, 84 degrees had not been reached until April 21st. The temperature also exceeded the previous daily record of 75 degrees set in 1960. Strong northwest chinook winds gusting to 37 mph at Stapleton International Airport were partially responsible for causing the extremely warm weather so early in the season.

1975: A major pre-Easter blizzard, the worst since the vicious storm of 1949, battered northeastern Colorado and left livestock losses in millions of dollars, but metro Denver escaped the main brunt of the storm and received only 5.0 inches of snowfall. North winds gusted to 38 mph at Stapleton International Airport where temperatures plunged from a high of 50 degrees to 18 degrees by midnight on the 26th.

1985: Strong winds occurred along the foothills. A wind gust to 76 mph was recorded in Boulder. A dust storm produced by the strong winds caused a 35-car pileup on I-25 north of Denver. In Denver, the high winds blew out windows in a few downtown buildings. West winds gusted to 52 mph at Stapleton International Airport.

1991: Heavy snow fell over portions of the eastern foothills with 9 inches recorded at Lake Eldora west of Boulder. The snow spread across metro Denver, but snowfall totaled only 1.7 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north to northeast winds gusting to 31 mph on both days produced some blowing snow.

1993: Strong winds from high based thunderstorms blew a roof off an Englewood business onto several parked cars. The winds also caused half of a furniture warehouse roof to collapse in north Denver, ripped a mechanical shed off the roof of a building in downtown Denver, and downed power lines in Commerce City. Wind gusts ranging from 55 to 68 mph were recorded. At Stapleton International Airport, where no thunder was heard, a microburst wind gust to 55 mph briefly reduced the visibility to zero in blowing dust.

1994: Heavy snow fell in the foothills west of Denver and over the Palmer Divide to the south of metro Denver. Snowfall totaled 11 inches at both the Eldora ski area and at Idaho Springs. Only 1.3 inches of snowfall were measured at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusted to 28 mph.

1995: A potent early spring storm produced heavy snow in the mountains, but skipped over metro Denver, before producing blizzard conditions and 6-foot drifts over eastern Colorado, causing the closure of I-70 and other highways. Only 0.7 inch of snow fell at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. North winds gusted to 40 mph at Denver International Airport on the 25th.

2001: A persistent band of moderate to heavy snow showers with a few embedded thunderstorms formed in the foothills around Estes Park and spread to the southeast across Boulder and Denver and on the plains to the east of Denver. Thunder and snow was reported at Jefferson County, Centennial, and Denver International Airports during the evening of the 25th. Snowfall totals included: 7 inches at Boulder and Louisville; 6 inches at Broomfield, Niwot, and Westminster; 5 inches at Eldorado Springs, Nederland, and near Strasburg. Only 2.1 inches of snow fell at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.

2006: Post-frontal strong winds quickly dissipated the dense morning fog across metro Denver. West to northwest winds were strong and gusty from mid-morning until sunset. West winds were sustained to 37 mph with gusts to 52 mph at Denver International Airport.

This “Day in Weather History” contains some memorable weather events and trivia from 1864 onwards for much of Northeast Colorado. Many sources were used to research and compile the data.


Once again, its spring break week. I don’t have any plans aside from my usual activities. But if you’re on spring break, or coming to Colorado, I’d say flexibility is key. It may seem inefficient to pack for such a number of contingencies, and its appropriate. Be prepared for most anything, and as we often say, dress in layers!


5 thoughts on “Weathering Spring Break

    1. imagine you are well acquainted with our crazy weather. I don’t recall that one. I do recall Nov 83 storm that shut down Stapleton for several days. I had come home for Thanksgiving, and my residency in Chicago gave me a lot of grief for my delayed return. They had a hard time believing the airport was closed. “But you’re on call, you have to come” I arrived at 6pm.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That was the BEST. My mom came down from Montana, my brother came up from the Springs and had Thanksgiving with us in Denver. They were absolutely unbearable to be around — fighting constantly. When it came time for my bro to catch the bus, my mom to catch the plane, we took them to their respective locales and left them. We didn’t go home. We went to the movies, out to dinner, grocery shopping. We KNEW they’d be stuck and we didn’t care. Mua ha ha ha.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. The most surprising thing to me about the response to that storm was the folks at the hospital acting as if I had done this on purpose. C’mon. I can pull off a blizzard and I’m just an intern–got to be a fellow at least for such feats. And they were in Chicago, which is hardly a stranger to storms.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s