National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Severe Weather Expected for the South on Tuesday; Winter Weather Conditions for the West, Central Plains, and Upper Mississippi River Valley

Severe weather is forecast across the middle and lower Mississippi Valley Tuesday afternoon where tornadoes and damaging winds are expected. A strong cold front will track across the Intermountain West accompanied by strong winds, heavy snow and elevated fire weather conditions for portions of the western High Plains with heavy snow likely for Upper Mississippi Valley Tuesday. Read More >

Overview

A significant blizzard struck northeast Colorado March 13th and 14th, 2021.  A deep storm system over the Desert Southwest tracked to the Four Corners area on Saturday, March 13, and then east/northeast across southern Colorado and into east central Colorado on Sunday, March 14. This is a very favorable track for significant winter storms for northeast Colorado, the Front Range, and the Denver metropolitan area, and this storm lived up to its full potential.

Areas of snow (rain on the eastern plains) developed ahead of the storm system and spread northward across Colorado Saturday.  By Saturday night, the focus for the heaviest snow had shifted to the northern border area, with areas around Fort Collins and the northern Front Range Foothills receiving the heaviest snow.  By early Sunday morning, between 10 and 17 inches of snow was already reported in the Fort Collins and Wellington areas, with around two feet in the foothills of Larimer County. The heavy, wet snow had accumulated on trees and powerlines, producing scattered power outages.  Meanwhile, most of the Denver metro area had received between five and eight inches of snow.  However, the heaviest snowfall was yet to come!

Early Sunday morning, the heavy snow quickly spread southward across the rest of the I-25 Urban Corridor and Front Range, including the entire Denver metropolitan area.  Snow was falling at the rate of one to two inches per hour.  Winds also began to increase at this time, with north winds along the I-25 Corridor increasing to 20-30 mph with gusts around 40 mph.  Blizzard conditions developed all up and down the Front Range late Sunday morning as winds continued to increase, and the snow became even heavier, falling at the rates of two to three inches per hour.  Peak wind gusts recorded in the afternoon included; 48 mph at Denver International Airport, 49 mph at Centennial and Fort Collins/Loveland Regional Airports, and as high as 66 mph along I-25 north of Wellington, Colorado.  Travel became nearly impossible due to the significant snow accumulations, blowing snow, deep drifting, and without conditions. Snow drifts reached a depth of three to seven feet.  All major interstates were closed except for those areas immediately in/near Denver and Fort Collins.  Denver International Airport runways were closed from noon Sunday until 2 pm on Monday, with over 2,000 flights canceled.  

The snow decreased from west to east across the plains Sunday evening, finally ending over the northeastern plains Monday morning.  Snowfall totals by the end of this significant blizzard ranged from 18 to 30 inches across the I-25 Corridor, with 20 to 40 inches in the Front Range Mountains and Foothills.  Local amounts up to four feet were reported in the northern foothills and mountains of Larimer county.  The official snowfall for Denver was 27.1 inches, which was the fourth largest storm on record since 1882.  

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Heavy snow blanketed much of northeast Colorado by Sunday, March 14, 2021. This image taken from Broomfield, Colorado

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 This image taken from Fort Collins. Photo courtesy of Eric Jensen.

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