DENVER (CBS4) – May is sometimes known for producing heavy, late season snow along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Blizzards conditions can also happen, as was the case on May 16-17 in 1983. The storm hit Denver on Election Day and hindered voter turnout as the city was electing a new mayor (Federico Peña).
According to the National Weather Service archives, the foothills west of Denver measured 1 to 2 feet of snow during the storm with 4 to 12 inches along the base of the foothills. Powerful winds sustained between 20-40 mph created drifts several feet deep which closed schools and highways. A wind gust of 55 mph was measured at Stapleton International Airport along with 7.1 inches of snow but it never piled up to more than 2 inches on the ground at the airport because it was so heavy and wet.
The wind and snow closed two of the four runways at Stapleton Airport stranding hundreds of travelers. The weight of the snow combined with the strong wind to snap or topple numerous power poles, resulting in a power outage that put nearly 20 square miles of Denver in the dark.
Denver’s high on the 17th was only 40 degrees which set a new low maximum temperature for the date and that record still stands today.
The storm delivered 1 to 3 inches of water across the area, mostly in the form of a heavy wet snow. Denver experienced widespread street flooding on the 18th as the high climbed to 57 degrees with a lot of melting.