Southern Colorado | Always Watching Out For You

Remembering the Blizzard of ’97

If I asked for first impressions when I say, “Blizzard of ’97”, what words or phrases come to mind? I asked around today, from those who were here, and got words and phrases like, “devastating”, “deadly”, “15 foot drifts”, “started shoveling from my rooftop.”

Regarded as one of the 5 worst snowstorms in southern Colorado, the storm was epic.
It began on a Sunday morning, wrapped up on a Monday evening, but cities and towns throughout southeastern Colorado were completely shut down for up to a week.

Telephone poles split, with power outages for several days, and numerous injuries and deaths, including several from people trapped in cars, and either freezing to death or dying from carbon monoxide poisoning, while in their cars for 2 days…waiting for help.

1997 Blizzard
1997 Blizzard (KOAA-TV)

Meteorologically, a storm front passed through Sunday morning, and the storm center continued on, but, the trailing cold front got hung up near the mountain’s edge. Then, a secondary storm formed in the 4 corners area, and between the two storms, there was tremendous convergence along that cold front hung up along the Divide. This created heavy, prolonged upslope snow, and wind, and cold.

For example…
Monument picked up 4 feet of the powder.
Springs airport, at one point, recorded 21 degrees, 55 mph wind gusts, and 19″ of snow on the ground.
La Junta had between 2 and 3 feet of snow, which was impossible to accurately measure, because of the high winds.

1997 Blizzard
1997 Blizzard (KOAA-TV)

Forecasters of the time, severely underestimated it in every category, especially wind and snow amounts.

It closed many schools for the entire week, and our own Mike Daniels remembers that some Broncos players of the time, were taken by local residents, to the airport…on the snowmobiles, to get to practices and the game!

All this, 21 years ago today.

Looking ahead, this Halloween, it does look like we are in for a sharp drop in temps, gusty winds, and maybe some flurries, but next Tuesday & Wednesday will be a far cry….from 21 years ago, today. (We think!)

1997 Blizzard
1997 Blizzard (KOAA-TV)
Jeff Matthews

Jeff Matthews

KOAA Meteorologist
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