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Spring storm season

March 26, 2009

March is a big season for snow. But remember one of the more recent record-breaking storms? The blizzard of March 2003 will bring back memories.


The snow storm that blasted the area March 18-19 in 2003 produced about 32 inches of snow in the area, with total precipitation amounting to a beefy 5.3 inches. The storm didn’t deliver the only precipitation that month, though – damp weather moved back in and doused the area during the last week of March.

Dumping ground

Shortly after the storm, Nolan Doesken, state climatologist at Colorado State and senior research associate in the university's Colorado Climate Center, noted that the storm was the wettest in Fort Collins history and produced the most snowfall in 36 hours.

“A snowstorm in 1913 remains the leader with the greatest snowfall at 36 inches, but that amount was spread out over more time,” Doesken said. And while the 2003 storm melted quickly, the December 1913 snow remained on the ground for several months.

Not close to a record

Although the 2003 storm was impressive, it wasn’t even close to a national (or statewide) record. Consider:

  • The maximum 24-hour snowfall in the United States was an astonishing 75.8 inches at Silver Lake in the mountains west of Boulder, Colo., at an elevation of 10,360 feet. The storm happened April 14-15, 1921.
  • The record maximum winter snowfall in Colorado was 807 inches, or more than 67 feet, during the 1978-79 season at Wolf Creek Pass.
  • The record for the most snowfall ever measured in the United States in a single season is 1,140 inches, or 95 feet, during the 1998-99 season at the Mt. Baker ski area in northeastern Washington state. The previous record-holder was 1,122 inches during the 1971-72 season at the Paradise Ranger Station at 5,500 feet on the slopes of Mt. Rainer, about 150 miles south of Mt. Baker.

Revisit the 2003 storm at the Colorado Climate Center’s digital photo gallery.