DENVER (KDVR) — St. Patrick’s Day is full of festive celebrations, but Coloradans who have been here for the past two decades may remember the holiday for a record-setting snowstorm.
Friday marked the 20th anniversary of the St. Patrick’s Day blizzard, which was the second-worst blizzard in Denver’s history, following only a blizzard of 1913.
This holiday snowstorm dumped about 3 feet of snow in the Denver metro area and more than 7 feet in the foothills, crippling Colorado communities.
FOX31 went back into the vault to dig up the memories.
Blizzard arrives on St. Patrick’s Day – and stays
“This thing came in on St. Patrick’s Day. It ramped up on the 18th, and it was still snowing on the 19th,” Pinpoint Weather Chief Meteorologist Dave Fraser recalled.
The three-day storm packed a powerful punch, becoming Denver’s second-snowiest event since 1872. It left people stuck, shoveling and stranded — 4,000 travelers at Denver International Airport, to be exact.
“From a forecasting standpoint, we were like, this is not going to be pretty,” Fraser said.
It’s a storm Fraser won’t forget, but how could he? He was in the FOX31 studio for three days — on air for nearly two days straight — pinpointing the blizzard.
“Almost 32 inches of snow. Almost three feet of snow,” Fraser said. “It was a heavy, wet, back-breaking snow. We call it concrete. That’s what it felt like.”
Heavy snow caused destruction
The wet, heavy March snow sent trees toppling and powerlines plummeting. Whipping winds caused buildings to collapse. Homes and vehicles were buried beneath the snow.
Whiteout conditions made things treacherous for first responders, residents and plow drivers, who worked tirelessly to dig out.
“It just kept snowing and snowing, and it really shut the city down. With every passing hour, you could see the impact,” Fraser said.
Avalanches in the mountains shut down interstates and roads, trapping hundreds of skiers, with helicopters forced to fly and ferry in food and supplies. The National Guard was even called in to rescue stranded Coloradans.
“The city just froze and didn’t move for three straight days,” Fraser said.
Colorado’s ‘solar shovel’ brings relief
On the other side of this St. Patrick’s Day blizzard was Colorado’s pot of gold: sunshine. The magic “solar shovel” added much-needed relief, but it did take a while to recover.
Wellington Webb was Denver’s mayor at the time, and said, “This is the storm of the century, a back-breaker, a record-breaker, a roof-breaker.”
He was not lying either. The cost of property damage alone was $93 million, making this the most expensive snowstorm — and certainly, one to remember.