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Remembering the historic Colorado blizzard of 1997

Posted at 8:40 AM, Oct 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-07 17:35:05-05

26 years ago, the blizzard of 1997 took the lives of seven people in Southern Colorado. Thousands were stranded and power outages spread across the state.

The storm caused people to be trapped for days, some even in their cars, a few days before Halloween and the official start of winter.

The blizzard— which the National Weather Service has described as rare for that time of year— started on the evening of October 24.

Blizzard 1997

Most of the deaths during the storm were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning as people helplessly took shelter in their vehicles. An estimated 20,000 cattle and calves also perished in the storm, resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Several injuries were sustained from heavy snow causing roofs to collapse.

Blizzard conditions lasted for nearly 24 hours and even longer for the southeastern regions.

After that initial cold front, a trailing cold front got stuck around the mountain's edge. Then, a second storm formed near the Four Corners area. The two storms created a convergence that formed heavy, prolonged upslope snow, wind and cold temperatures.

Snow piled up in feet rather than inches. Northern El Paso County reported over 4 feet of snow. Places like Black Forest and Monument saw nearly half of their seasonal totals in those 24 hours.

Colorado Springs and Woodland Park both saw around 2 feet of snow.

In short, the blizzard of 1997 is one that still resonates with viewers today.

A post-storm report from the National Weather Service in Pueblo said that the snowfall was so hard to measure accurately because 55 mph wind gusts caused the snow to fly up to 10-15 feet in height, causing all of Southern Colorado to shut down for up to a week.

Schools closed for most of the week, as the process to dig them out stretched for days after the storm.

The blizzard of 1997 would later be regarded as one of the top five worst snowstorms in Southern Colorado history.

Remembering the historic Colorado blizzard of 1997