Colorado Blizzard – April 7th, 2005

On April 7th 2005, we were starting to get the first indications that there might be a significant Colorado blizzard heading towards Colorado Springs. Most of the time, these weather events are hit or miss in that they may or may not have that much of an impact on our location. We don’t actually live in Colorado Springs. We’re about 8 miles east in the town of Falcon and due to the geography, we fall in the “rain shadow” of Black Forest and the Palmer divide. This means any storms that come from the north (as most winter storms do) produce very little snow fall by the time it reaches us. However, the wind can be ferocious.

The Arrival

Colorado blizzardEarly on April 10th, 2005 the Colorado blizzard barreled in. By 8:30am we had our first 50mph wind gust and the 10 minute wind average was about 32mph. I couldn’t remember any other storms making that much noise. All windows except the east facing ones were almost totally iced over. Unlike most of the winter storms in Falcon, this one was putting down quite a bit of snow. After pulling up the radar images, it looked as if all the moisture was streaming in from due east yet the wind was howling from the northwest. From Wyoming down the New Mexico, the entire front range out to about Limon was getting hammered. Any travel at this point would have been treacherous, and there was a high probability one could easily become stranded on the side of the road.

Colorado blizzardBy about noon, it was very nasty out. We could not see our back fence which is about 130 feet from our house. There were times when my weather station couldn’t be seen, and that’s about 50 feet from the house. In addition to the snow falling, the 40mph winds were picking up snow and hurling it sideways, creating some pretty big snow drifts. The wind chill was averaging 7°F and the wind was just relentless. I don’t think it dropped below 30mph until about 4:00pm. Gusts up to 45mph were a regular occurrence and the whole house was creaking. The city of Colorado Springs announced they would not be plowing roads in northeastern El Paso county until Monday morning due to the wind. There was no point. The snow would quickly recover the roads.

Snow Drifts and Their Affect

Colorado blizzardAfter only 6 hours, the snow drifts were about 5 feet high. This is a shot of our neighbors to the east. The white fence stands just over 4 feet high and the snow drift tops that. We seem to take the brunt of the wind here in Falcon because the entire area is new housing developments, so there are very few trees. To make matters worse, all the lots are 1/2 acre minimum and there’s about 300 yards of undeveloped land that backs up to our property. So the wind and snow have few obstacles to overcome before they slam into our houses. About 2 years ago, we had a similar storm in which the snows drifts on Highway 24 and Woodmen were about 6 feet high. I have no doubt that they were just as high during this storm.

Colorado blizzardDriving in this storm would of been impossible. Literally. Not only were the streets covered in snow drifts, but the visibility … well, there was no visibility. Even getting out of the house presented a challenge. For some reason, the snow seems to pile up in front of our house. The front door is usually blocked and opening it might mean you never get it shut again. In addition to our house being closed, Denver International Airport canceled all incoming and outgoing flights for the remainder of the day (that’s a pretty big deal). Highway 25 was closed from Pueblo all the way down to Trinidad (New Mexico border). Highway 24 was closed from Colorado Springs out to Limon (about 75 miles). Highway 94 was also closed. As a result, Schriever Air Force Base was closed (even to mission essential personnel). There was just no way to get there. Smaller surface streets within the city were also closed, such as sections of Powers. The city had already decided that school would not be in session on Monday and issued the closures Sunday afternoon.

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