COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — It was a decade filled with extreme weather events across the country. From hurricanes, to tornado outbreaks, to wildfires and blizzards, we saw it all during the 2010s. Let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable weather events that happened right here in Colorado.
The National Weather Service offices in Colorado voted on several different events from 2010 to 2019 to decide what the top weather events for the decade were. Meteorologists at Boulder, Pueblo and Grand Junction named 12 events they think top the list.
The first event is the floods of September 2013. Rainfall totals during this event reached 6 to 18 inches along the Front Range, foothills and parts of the Denver Metro area.
After a few days of light rain, torrential downpours took over from the night of September 11th through the 12th. A subtropical airmass sitting over the state clashed with a weak disturbance, causing days of heavy rain to linger along the Front Range.
The heaviest widespread rain was seen through Central Boulder Country, where 12 to 18 inches were recorded. The September event also broke the record for most precipitation in a 24-hour period in Fort Carson, where almost a foot of rain fell.
A series of wildfires in 2012 were named the second most memorable Colorado weather event of the decade. The Lower North Fork Fire, High Park Fire and Waldo Canyon Fire all happened a few months apart in different parts of Colorado.
The Lower North Fork was the first fire to ignite on March 22nd in Conifer, Colorado. It started as a large scale prescribed burn before strong winds carried the fire outside the controlled burn site. The fire burned 4,410 acres, took the lives of 3 people and destroyed 23 homes east of Foxton. Crews say the fire was 100% contained on April 2nd, 2012.
The High Park fire started on June 9, 2012 just west of Fort Collins from a lightning strike. The NWS says this is the 4th largest wildfire in Colorado state history, burning over 87,000 acres. It destroyed 259 homes in its path along the Poudre River watershed. Crews contained the wildfire later that day.
The third wildfire was the Waldo Canyon fire on June 23rd in the Pike National Forest. This fire took two lives and destroyed almost 350 homes during the 18 days it burned. It covered over 18, 000 acres before it was contained on July 10th. There is a burn scar from this wildfire that occasionally causes catastrophic flooding over Highway 24 into the city of Manitou Springs.
And more recently, the bomb cyclone of March 2019 hit the top 3 most memorable weather events list. This intense cyclone was the strongest storm ever recorded in Colorado. It happened on March 13, 2019 as a strong area of low pressure developed over the state.
This system met the criteria of a “bomb cyclone” because the barometric pressure in the system dropped so low over a 24-hour period. The system set a new record for the lowest pressure ever recorded in a storm system over Colorado, at 970.4 mb.
If you were here, you probably remember the March bomb cyclone pretty vividly. The storm dropped 1 to 3 feet of snow, created blizzard conditions and wind gusts up to 100 mph were recorded.
El Paso County reported around 1,500 people were stranded in cars and rest stops. Downed trees and power lines caused 445,000 people to loose power. Many Highways and Interstates were closed due to whiteout conditions, along with cancelled flights and school closings across the state.
Some of the other weather events the NWS named as the most memorable of the decade include the 2017 Denver hailstorm, avalanches during the winter of 2019 and summer 2018 hail storms.
You can see a full list of the NWS top Colorado weather events between 2010 and 2019 at: https://www.weather.gov/bou/top_colorado_wxevents_2010s