Colorado Blizzard on December 20th, 2006

colorado blizzardThis was another one of those infamous Colorado blizzards that snuck up with about a 1-day warning. The first forecasts from a few days earlier didn’t mention anything about a significant snow storm, only that we may get a couple inches of snow and some moderate winds. Then on Tuesday, the day before the storm hit, forecasters started hinting that this could be a pretty powerful storm. I figured it wouldn’t be that bad because a fairly potent yet uneventful cold front had already pushed through a few days earlier. Anyhow, here’s the hour-by-hour experience of the December 20th, 2006 blizzard from the town of Falcon just outside the city limits of Colorado Springs:

Wednesday – 4:00 am MST

Wind is howling outside. It’s very difficult to sleep because the house is making all sorts of noise. No snow yet so I’m guessing I’ll be driving into work this morning. Forecasters are kind of uncertain about how much snow we will get and the intensity of the storm. Just yesterday, there weren’t any warnings.

Wednesday – 7:00 am MST

I can’t sleep. It’s just too noisy. Still no snow and I suppose I should go into work. No messages on the TV either about Schriever Air Force Base being closed. Only a couple school districts in Colorado Springs are closed. Are they anticipating a bad storm? No one has come out and said “OK, This is going to be a monster.” Still no snow and just moderate winds.

Wednesday – 8:00 am MST

OK, I guess I’ll get ready for work. Still no snow and just a lot of wind. About the same as earlier this morning. TV still doesn’t indicate Schriever AFB is closed.

Wednesday – 9:00 am MST

colorado blizzardWow! The snow has started and it’s pretty bad out. Conditions went from OK to poor in about 15 minutes. Not horrible, but visibility is down to about 100 feet. So far, this is a typical winter storm for Colorado and I’m sure Schriever AFB will be closing soon. Yep, there’s the TV announcement. Closed for all non-mission essential personnel. By the way, that is not fog in the pictures. It’s snow moving so fast it shows up blurred on the camera. That much snow if flying by and visibility really is this bad! The wind has picked up quite a bit too. My personal weather station is saying 35 mph winds.

Wednesday – 11:00 am MST

Sheesh. Snow drifts already starting to build. Look to be about 5′ in height. Visibility is about the same although it sounds like the wind might be picking up. Highest wind gust is 45 mph. That’s getting up there. Snow is still coming down and visibility is still about 100′.

Wednesday – 1:00 pm MST

colorado blizzardMy gosh. The 10-minute wind speed average is now 45 mph and is showing no signs of letting up. Highest wind gust is now 56 mph. Wind chill is down to -1°F. I will bump up the wind speed alert on my Vantage Pro weather station to 55 mph, because it’s almost always sounding off now. Highway 25 is closed from New Mexico to Wyoming as it is no longer passable. Highways 24 and 94 are also closed so we’re trapped in our house. Travel is now pretty much impossible. Radio says about 50 cars are off the side of the road in Austin Bluffs Parkway. Highway 25 is at a stand still. Lots of motorists are stuck.

Wednesday – 2:00 pm MST

Wind is still averaging 45 mph. Gusts are still well into the 50 mph range. Snow rate almost looks like it has picked up a bit. Visibility is now down to about 30′. We can’t see the fence on the side of our house. Snow drifts are about the same height, but they are getting longer. Man, it’s horrible out. I’m not sure you could drive in this.

Wednesday – 3:00 pm MST

colorado blizzardNothing has changed. Still very intense out there and it hasn’t let up at all. Just heard Colorado Springs and Denver International Airport are closed. That’s got to suck for the holiday travelers. Actually, the TV is scrolling that the entire city of Colorado Springs is pretty much shut down. Police are on cold reporting … you get stuck, you stay stuck. No one is coming to get you. This is quite a blizzard. Radar is still looking quite nasty too. Imagine a category 1 hurricane except instead of rain, there’s snow. I really hope this doesn’t continue on throughout the night.

Wednesday – 4:00 pm MST

Wind not as strong but still averaging about 35 mph. Gusts down in the 40 mph range. Still snowing a bit and the wind chill is now -2°F. Looks like it could be a pretty cold night. News is saying the low pressure system will only move about 70 miles by tomorrow morning, which isn’t that far. So we can expect more of the same all night and into tomorrow morning.

Wednesday – 5:00 pm MST

No change. Still snowing. Wind the same. Barometric pressure is now rising instead of falling, so the low pressure system is moving out … slowly.

Wednesday – 7:00 pm MST

colorado blizzardMellowing out a bit. Wind speed has died down quite a bit and is only averaging about 25 mph. Gusts are around 30 mph. Temperature is 17°F and the wind chill is -3°F. I think the worst is over with. A state of emergency has been declared and the National Guard has been called to rescue stranded motorists off the highways. Last report was a ton of people were hanging out in a Village Inn off Highway 25 because there was nowhere else to go. Lots more are still stuck on the freeway. I’m afraid some fatalities will be reported. Reports are coming in that some airplanes are taking off from Colorado Springs Airport. However, some travelers will be stuck in Colorado until after Christmas. That’s going to make some people mad, but hey, it’s not the airline’s fault.

Wednesday – 8:00 pm MST

It’s starting to snow again.

Wednesday – 10:00 pm MST

Wind is picking up again. It’s averaging around 35 mph and gusts are above 40 mph. It’s also snowing. Most school districts and military bases have already announced they will be closed tomorrow. Wind chill is now -4°F.

Wednesday – 11:00 pm MST

This is crazy and so much for mellowing out. The 10-minute average wind speed has increased to 42 mph and gusts are back into the 50 mph range. Wind chill is now -5°F and the barometer is steady. More snow is falling and the regional radar is showing some pretty good snow bands moving in from the northeast. Snow drifts now span the entire length of our 1/2 acre lot and look to be 6 feet in height. It’s going to be another noisy night of sleeping. Front door is totally blocked by a snow mound. The door cannot be opened (not that I want to open it).

Thursday – 10:00 am MST

Got some good sleep after the winds died down. Woke up and the snow was still falling. Snow drifts were huge. Most streets are impassable. This guys house (bottom right) is totally blocked in by snow drifts. On the far right side of the house appears to be a gray wall (looked live a big wave about to break). That is the front side of a snow drift. I estimate it’s about 7 feet high!

Thursday – 4:00 pm MST

colorado blizzardCars are everywhere on the sides of the roads. The remains of a new Humvee were being dug out of the snow bank at Woodmen and Powers. It was in pretty bad shape and based on the damage it sustained I can’t imagine what the other car looks like. My guess is, he thought he could stop on ice better than the rest … doesn’t work that way. Plows are coming through local neighborhoods now so things are bearable again. Everything should be back to normal tomorrow. Miraculously, there were NO fatalities! That’s a great Christmas present for all.