It’s that time of year when the hum of air conditioners across Denver falls silent, sweaters are suddenly everywhere and pumpkin spice is everything! It's also when the fall color show begins to wrap up, and the colorful leaves that adorn many of the streets in the city take a bow and begin to blanket every nook, cranny and crevice. Welcome to Denver in October!
The tenth month of the year in Denver can be known is a wildly variable month temperature-wise. We may have days where we are sipping our pumpkin spice cold brew in shorts and a T-shirt and then suddenly need warmer fall clothes and a hot pumpkin spice latte as the seasons first snow falls!
But you might want to hold off before you debut that expensive parka in your closet. There is still some short-sleeve weather to be had—and according to The Washington Post, that is about 65 to 79 degrees (in case you were wondering).
October is the fifth-warmest month of the year in the city, behind July, August, June and May, respectively. The monthly mean temperature for October in Denver is 50.9 degrees, according to a National Weather Service analysis based on 1981 to 2010 averages.
The warmest it has ever gotten in Denver in October was 90 degrees! And that happened on Oct. 1, 1892, according to the NWS. In fact, the weather service said it was also the latest 90-degree-or-higher temperature Denver has recorded. In other words, the first day of October is the latest it has ever gotten 90+ degrees in the city.
But October can also get cold — real cold. For low temperatures, the month begins with a normal of 42 degrees and trends below the freezing mark to finish with a normal of 31, according to the NWS. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Denver for October was 2 degrees below zero on Oct. 29, 1917.
Speaking of cold stuff, snow usually shows up during this month. October is typically when we begin to see the strong likelihood of cold Pacific storm systems bringing the season's first real snowfall. In the last 138 years, measurable snow has fallen in Denver in October 122 times. We’ve missed out on any significant snowfall for October only 16 times since 1882.
The snowiest October in Denver happened in 1969, when a total of 31.2 inches fell during the month. It’s far above the monthly mean for precipitation for the month, which is 1.02 inches of water. The average snowfall for October is 4 inches. But in recent memory, the October 24-26, 1997 blizzard stands out.
1997 October blizzard
This year will mark the 25th anniversary of the 1997 October blizzard that dumped up to 52 inches in some parts of Colorado and is blamed for taking the lives of six people across the Front Range and Eastern Plains. It also stranded thousands of motorists, many of which had to be rescued by the National Guard.
The fatalities occurred in El Paso, Otero, Pueblo, and Bent counties. Three people in El Paso County died from carbon monoxide poisoning after waiting for help to come in their snowbound vehicles for over 24 hours, according to the National Weather Service. Two people froze to death and a man was killed in a vehicle accident during the blizzard.
Other people were injured when roofs and gas station canopies collapsed under the weight of the snow that fell over those three days. Power outages occurred in many parts of the state, causing businesses to close and the economy to take a major hit. Roads and highways were shut down, and only emergency traffic was allowed.
Denver didn't get hit as bad as other areas, including Colorado Springs, Pueblo and the Eastern Plains. The NWS called the 1997 October blizzard a rare event.
The Denver7 360 In-Depth team charted an overall and detailed look at what to expect from the weather in October. The infographics tell the story of what to expect on a typical day as well as how much of a cool down to expect over the course of the month. (According to the averages)
In this Denver7 360 In-Depth deep dive 📈
- Check the normal high/low by day
- Compare record low and high temperatures 🔅
- Top 10 snowiest Octobers 📆
- A look back at the deadly 1997 blizzard 🌨
If you have trouble seeing the graphics in the story, click this link for a full screen experience.