More than 100 years ago, massive amounts of snow hit Colorado in early December of 1913. The storm continues to be one of the biggest blizzards to have ever hit the state, bringing life to a standstill for a few days in parts of the Centennial State.
Snow started falling around the Front Range and central mountains on December 1, 1913 and continued through December 5. It reportedly caught many residents by surprise due to rapid accumulation of heavy, wet flakes. People got stranded and sleighs were used for travel instead of early automobiles.
The Georgetown area saw some of the highest totals, with snow stacking up to an estimated 86 inches – more than seven feet.
Denver and Colorado Springs also saw huge totals. Denver saw a reported 45.7 inches of snow – the most snow ever recorded in the Mile High City. Colorado Springs saw a reported 24 to 28 inches, though other sources claim local totals reached closer to six feet in some areas.
Devastation due to the blizzard was widespread. Massive 20 to 50 foot snow drifts were reported along the Wyoming border, resulting in thousands of cattle deaths. While no human deaths were reported, some people were allegedly reported missing. Details of whether or not those people were found seem to be lost to time.
The 1913 blizzard proved to be quite costly, with one source estimating that insurance claims related to the blizzard totaled $33 million (adjusted for inflation). To put that in perspective, $35 million is the estimated cost of stopping the Pine Gulch Fire, which grew to 139,007 acres in summer of 2020 and was the largest fire in Colorado history at that time (it has since been passed by the East Troublesome Fire and the Cameron Peak Fire).
While this record-setting blizzard did cause quite a bit of chaos, some good came out of it.
Engineers and architects were made aware of the structural risks that heavy snow can pose, learning how to make future buildings safer should a similar storm roll through. The moisture of the storm, and additional moisture throughout the 1913-14 winter, was also considered a contributing factor in good crop yields the following summer.
While a few big snow storms have rolled through Colorado in late 2020, nothing has come close to the totals seen during the December blizzard of 1913. Will Colorado see snowfall this impactful anytime soon? Only time will tell.