Blizzard of 2003 left 4,000 stranded at partially collapsed Denver airport

·2 min read
Blizzard of 2003 left 4,000 stranded at partially collapsed Denver airport
Blizzard of 2003 left 4,000 stranded at partially collapsed Denver airport

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


The blizzard of 2003 started as an intense, moist, and slow-moving Pacific system tracking into southeastern Colorado. On Monday, March 17, 2003, it started to snow in Colorado, and it didn't stop for three days.

colorado snow
colorado snow

The Blizzard of 2003. Denver, Colorado. Courtesy of Saitor/Flickr

The blizzard was the second snowiest storm in Denver's recorded history. A 1913 storm still holds the record for the snowiest, with a total of 116 cm.

The 2003 storm included snowfalls as high as 222 cm in Fritz Peak, 210 cm in Canin Creek, 139.7 cm in Eldora Ski Area, 57 cm in Boulder, and the Denver metro area and the Denver International Airport were not spared, either.

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The airport was shut down, leaving 4,000 travellers stranded. Not only were flights cancelled, but the weight of the snow caused a 40-foot hole in the airport's roof.

The immense amount of snow was accompanied by winds as high as 64 km/h, creating snowbanks as high as six feet. The storm caused approximately $93 million worth of damage, making it the costliest snowstorm on record for the area.

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1015564292 9f740dfbbd b

The Blizzard of 2003. Denverm Colorado. Courtesy of Saitor/Flickr

In Denver, 258 structures were damaged, 135,000 people lost power, and the National Guard sent 40 soldiers to rescue stranded motorists.

In the very snowy Eldora Ski area, avalanches caused many roads to close, which stranded 270 skiers. A military helicopter had to deliver food to the resort until the area was up and running again.

Denver's mayor, Wellington Webb, said "this is the storm of the century, a backbreaker, a record-breaker, a roof-breaker."

To learn more about the blizzard of 2003, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

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Thumbnail: 2003 Colorado blizzard. Courtesy of flickr