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This is what the aftermath of a real Denver blizzard looks like.EXPAND
This is what the aftermath of a real Denver blizzard looks like.

The Snowiest Denver Thanksgivings of All Time and More

This week's snowstorm paralyzed the Denver metro area, and its lingering effects have added another degree of difficulty to travel during Thanksgiving week.

That's fairly unusual, according to information from the National Weather Service, whose stats show that fresh flakes aren't a regular Turkey Day occurrence in the Mile High City. But storms that have struck prior to the holiday, like the latest one, have wreaked their own festive form of havoc. They include a squall the folks at the Farmers' Almanac describe as "one of the biggest Thanksgiving storms to ever hit a major city."

The NWS's data about what it describes as "Denver's Winter/Cold Season," reveals that we typically get at least some snow before the Thanksgiving holiday. The earliest recorded snowfall for any year since record-keeping began was September 3, 1961, while the latest was November 21, 1934.
The average date for the first snow is October 18, but over the ten-year period between 2009 and 2018, this event happened later than that on six occasions. Here's the list:

October 6, 2018
October 9, 2017
November 17, 2016
November 5, 2015
November 11, 2014
October 18, 2013
October 5, 2012
October 25, 2011
November 15, 2010
October 21, 2009

The snowy season in Denver has ended as early as March 4 (in 1887) and as late as June 12 (circa 1947). On average, however, we see our last snow on or around April 28 — though such sightings have taken place later than that in six of the ten years between 2010 and 2019, as seen in these digits.

May 21, 2019
April 24, 2018
April 29, 2017
April 30, 2016
May 10, 2015
May 12, 2014
May 2, 2013
April 3, 2012
May 11, 2011
May 12, 2010

The gap between the greatest and least amount of snow per season that's landed on Denver is nearly 100 inches wide. The top figure was 118.7 inches in 1908-1909, while just 21.3 inches registered in 1888-89. On average, we get 56.4 inches of snow per year.

Continue to see the figures for the past decade:

2018-2019 48.1
2017-2018 25.7
2016-2017 21.8
2015-2016 72.8
2014-2015 57.8
2013-2014 38.4
2012-2013 78.4
2011-2012 55.6
2010-2011 22.8
2009-2010 60.6

Denver snowstorm survivors of an earlier era.EXPAND
Denver snowstorm survivors of an earlier era.

As longtime Denver residents know, even big snowfalls tend to disappear pretty quickly. But there are exceptions to that rule. The NWS has compiled the following list of consecutive days of one inch or more of snow was on the ground in the Mile High since 1900. By the way, the date in each item represents the end of the streak.

1. 63 days, Jan 27, 1984
2. 61 days, Feb 19, 2007
3. 60 days, Jan 29, 1914
4. 48 days, Feb 9, 1983
5. 43 days, Jan 30, 1974
6. 38 days, Jan 30, 1988
7. 35 days, Feb 5, 1949
8.. 33 days, Jan 18, 1919
9. 32 days, Jan 8, 2008
10. 27 days, Feb 23, 1989

Of the biggest snowstorms to hit Denver since 1881, only three of the top 24 took place in November, but one of them (number 8) was a Thanksgiving special. See the roster below.

1. 45.7 inches, Dec 1-5, 1913
2. 31.8 inches, Mar 17-19, 2003
3. 30.4 inches, Nov 2-4, 1946
4. 23.8 inches, Dec 24, 1982
5. 23.0 inches, Apr 23, 1885
6. 22.7 inches, Oct 20-23, 1906
7. 21.9 inches, Oct 24-25, 1997
8. 21.5 inches, Nov 26-27, 1983
9. 20.7 inches, Dec 20-21, 2006
10. 19.3 inches, Jan 29-31, 1883
11. 19.0 inches, Apr 24-25, 1935
12. 18.7 inches, Mar 5-6, 1983
13. 18.5 inches, Mar 20-22, 1944
14. 18.2 inches, Apr 17-19, 1920
15. 18.0 inches, Apr 19-20, 1907
16. 18.0 inches, Mar 31-Apr 1, 1891
17. 17.7 inches, Nov 19-21, 1979
18. 17.3 inches, Apr 2, 1957
19. 16.9 inches, Mar 20-21, 1952
20. 16.8 inches, Apr 20-22, 1933
21. 16.5 inches, Sep 26-28, 1936
22. 16.0 inches, Oct 3-5, 1969
23. 15.9 inches, Feb 2-4, 2012
24. 15.8 inches, Apr 26-27, 1972

The Farmers' Almanac notes that what it labels "The Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1983" dumped 21.5 inches of snow on Denver during a 37-hour period spanning November 26 and 27. Nearby areas exceeded this sum, including Littleton's Chatfield Reservoir, where snow piles reached 28 inches in height.

To make matters even worse, winds of up to 35 miles per hour made temperatures in the teens and low twenties feel even chillier. The meteorological combo closed Stapleton, then Denver's main airport, for 24 hours and forced most businesses to keep their doors locked on Black Friday. The snow cover lingered for 63 days — yes, the top number on that particular list above. Clearing the deluge cost an estimated $1.5 million, an astronomical amount at the time.

On Thanksgiving Day itself, however, no snowfall total has exceeded ten inches for Denver in nearly 150 years. Indeed, there have only been seven Thanksgivings over that period during which even one inch was measured. Here they are:

November 25, 1897: 2 inches
November 29, 1928: 8.5 inches
November 25, 1943: 4 inches
November 27, 1958: 4.8 inches
November 28, 1968: 1.6 inches
November 26, 1987: 5 inches
November 26, 2015: 1 inch

This year is unlikely to buck this trend in Denver proper, and that's fine. Most of us would agree we've got enough snow on the ground already.

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