Though winter doesn’t officially begin until December 22nd, snow on Thanksgiving is not an unusual occurrence. In some regions, particularly in the mountains, snowfall routinely begins in mid-to-late October and carries right on through the official start of spring. Anyone who lives in the Rocky Mountains knows that early snow is just a part of life in this gorgeous region. Still, thirty-five years ago, residents of Denver, Colorado, were caught off guard by a Thanksgiving blizzard of epic proportions.
The Thanksgiving Blizzard
On November 26th and 27th of 1983, the now infamous Thanksgiving Blizzard moved in and buried the Mile-High City under 21 inches of snow over a 37-hour period. Some outlying areas, including the Chatfield Reservoir outside Littleton, reported as much as 28 inches over the same period.
The snow was accompanied by a bone-chilling cold front that blew through the Front Range, bringing wind speeds of up to 36 mph and temperatures in the teens and low 20s.
The combination of snow, cold, and wind brought the city to its knees, and suspended holiday travel for even the most intrepid. Stapleton Airport closed down for 24 hours as workers struggled to clear 18 inches of snow from the runways. All of the highways in and around Denver were closed. Businesses that were closed for the Thanksgiving holiday remained closed on Black Friday (imagine that in this era of Thanksgiving Day shopping!) and high school football games throughout the region were canceled.
Even after the snow ended, it stayed on the ground for 63 days, the longest stretch of continuous snow cover in Denver’s history. Snow removal alone cost the city $1.5 million, to say nothing of the economic impact due to lost business.
The storm rates as one of the most dramatic Thanksgiving Day storms in the nation’s history.
So, rain, shine, or even snow, while you’re sitting around your Thanksgiving table this year, you may want to take some time to give thanks that you’re not currently living through the Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1983.
Caleb Weatherbee is the official forecaster for the Farmers' Almanac. His name is actually a pseudonym that has been passed down through generations of Almanac prognosticators and has been used to conceal the true identity of the men and women behind our predictions.