What is it?
A blizzard is a violent windstorm with dry, driving snow and intense cold. A winter storm officially becomes a blizzard when sustained winds reach 35 mph, and the combination of snow and blowing snow reduces visibility ¼-mile or less.
What’s the Risk?
Snow happens in Colorado, and not just in the winter. In fact, March is typically the snowiest month of the year. Warmer air can hold more moisture than colder air, so the heaviest snows happen right around the freezing mark (32 degrees Fahrenheit). During heavy snows, risks include icy roads; low visibility; extreme temperatures, which bring the possibility of hypothermia and frostbite, as well as frozen pipes; and damage to trees and buildings.
Notable blizzards include:
- Dec. 20 & 28-29, 2006: The back-to-back Holiday Blizzards of 2006 dumped approximately three feet of snow on the Front Range, with drifts reported up to eight feet.
- Mar. 18-19, 2003: Thirty inches of heavy spring snow fell over two days, damaging many homes and businesses, and shutting down CSU and area schools for days.
- Dec. 24, 1982: Two feet of snow on Christmas Eve was Denver’s heaviest single-day snowfall in 97 years; interestingly, that same day, only one inch of snow fell in Greeley!
- Jan. 1-6, 1949: An extreme blizzard struck the northern plains and northern Rockies. Thirty-nine deaths were reported in Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado with snowdrifts totally covering houses and barns.
How Should I Prepare?
- Stay indoors and out of the cold as much as possible. If you must go out into the storm, avoid heavy physical exertion such as shoveling snow, pushing vehicles, or trying to walk long distances through deep snow. The strain from the exertion coupled with the extreme cold can cause a heart attack. In addition, heavy perspiration during extreme cold can lead to chill and hypothermia.
- Keep yourself posted on weather conditions
- Use a battery-powered radio or your television to keep informed on the current weather conditions so you can avoid getting caught in dangerous conditions.
- You should have at least 1 extra supply of batteries to run your radio.
- Be prepared to be isolated in your home during the storm.
- During a winter storm warning be sure to have enough food and water to last you for 72 hours in case of an emergency.
- Make sure the food you have does not need to be cooked or refrigerated in case of utility outages.
- Have extra necessary prescription medicine, able to last you for 72 hours if needed.
- Have a battery-powered flashlight in case of electricity outages.
- Don’t forget supplies for your pets.
- Travel only if necessary and bring enough coats, hats, gloves and blankets for everyone traveling in case of an emergency.
- Also, extra food and water is recommended when traveling in severe winter conditions.
After a Blizzard
- If you see power lines down, Stay Away! Call 970-416-2600 to report.
- Avoid overexertion and hypothermia while clearing walkways.
- Drive with caution and don’t drive faster than road conditions permit, even if you are in a hurry.
- Stay off closed roads.
- If your car breaks down, don’t panic.
- Turn on your hazard lights.
- If you run your engine to stay warm, be sure that the exhaust pipe is clear of snow and open a window for ventilation.