Post-Storm Summary of the February 2-4, 2012 Record Breaking Winter Storm

A major winter storm struck Northeast Colorado on the evening of February 2nd, and continued to impact the region into the early morning hours of February 4th.  This slow moving storm produced record snowfall for portions of the Front Range.  Denver saw two records fall.  First, the 12.5 inches of snow that fell on February 3rd broke the calendar day record snowfall for the month of February. Second, the storm total of 15.9 inches also broke the record for heaviest storm snowfall in the month of February, surpassing the old record of 14.1 inches set back in 1912.  Boulder also set a new storm snowfall record, with 22.7 inches which smashed the old record of 16.5 inches set on February 12th and 13th in 1968.

A storm of this magnitude is more typical in the months of March and April.  However, this early February storm had many of the same characteristics of a classic spring snowstorm along the Front Range.  This storm system first moved into the Pacific Northwest during the early morning hours of Wednesday, February 1st, and then dropped southeast into the Great Basin by that afternoon.  On Thursday, February 2nd, the storm began to intensify and also slow as it moved into the Four Corners region, a favored location for heavy snowfall across Northeast Colorado.  At the same time another key ingredient to major winter storms, moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, was streaming northward ahead of this storm.  This moisture reached Colorado by Thursday evening with snow (initially some rain over the far eastern plains) quickly developing.  Snow became heavy along the Front Range late Thursday evening and continued into early Friday morning as a moist and unstable upslope flow developed along the Front Range.  Snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour occurred with the heavier snow bands, while snowfall rates in excess of 2 inches per hour pounded  the foothills. 

On Friday, February 3rd, the storm system moved slowly east along and just south of the Colorado/New Mexico border in the morning, and then lifted northeast across Southeast Colorado in the afternoon.  While snow temporarily decreased during the day Friday, another period of moderate to heavy snowfall developed late Friday afternoon and evening.   In addition to the snow, north winds of 15 to 25 mph with gusts around 35 mph east of I-25 produced considerable blowing and drifting snow, with drifts as high as 5 feet reported in Douglas and Elbert counties.  The storm finally moved away from the region late Friday night and Saturday with snow coming to an end. 

Below, you can find the evolution of the upper level storm system (shown in green) and winds near 10,000 ft MSL (shown in light blue) during the progression of the storm.  These are just two of the ingredients required for major Northeast Colorado snowstorms.  The description is placed on top of each image.

 

Wednesday evening, February 1, 2012 - Pacific storm system was moving into the Great Basin.

 

Thursday morning, February 2, 2012 - Upper level low began to intensify along the Utah/Nevada border, and a weak surface cold front pushed into Northeast Colorado (not shown). The airmass was initially quite dry, so weak upslope flow along the Front Range did not product any precipitation at this time.

Wednesday afternoon, February 1, 2012

 

Thursday evening, February 2, 2012 - Strong upper level low dropped into the Four Corners region, and moist, unstable upslope flow began to establish itself across Northeast Colorado.  Gulf of Mexico moisture had spread into southeastern Colorado and western Kansas, and precipitation quickly developed and became heavy Thursday night.

 

Friday morning, February 3, 2012 - Large upper level low pressure system moved slowly east along the Colorado/New Mexico border.  Strong east/northeast upslope flow over eastern Colorado had resulted in heavy snow through Thursday night and into the early morning hours Friday.

 

Friday afternoon, February 3, 2012 - Upper level low had moved across Southeast Colorado.  After a brief lull in the storm during the day Friday, another surge of moisture reaches Northeast Colorado with more snowfall Friday evening and Friday night.

 

Saturday morning, February 4, 2012 - The major winter storm finally moves east into the Central Plains, bringing an end to the record breaking snowstorm.

 

A loop of satellite imagery of the storm's progression can be found here... http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/goes/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/120203-04_g13_wv_anim.gif

Below are the storm total maps showing the heaviest snowfall along the Front Range and Palmer Divide, stretching northeast onto the eastern plains of Colorado.   Note how little snow fell west of the Front Range mountains, including much of Summit, Grand, and Jackson counties.  Downslope northeasterly flow off the Cheyenne Ridge (along the Colorado/Wyoming border) also played a large role in the lack of signficant snowfall north of a Wellington to Greeley line.

Close-up of heaviest snowfall

Storm totals for specific sites - A huge THANK YOU to all our weather spotters who reported snowfall amounts during and after the storm!

 

PINECLIFFE 4 SSE

51.1

JAMESTOWN 3 W

46

WARD 4.6 NE

45.7

PINE JUNCTION 3 NE

39

BLACK HAWK 3 N

38

CONIFER 3 WSW

37

NEDERLAND 4 ENE

37

NEDERLAND 3.7 ENE

36

BOULDER 3.6 WNW

35.5

CONIFER 3 WSW

35.5

CONIFER 5 W

35

NEDERLAND .47 ESE

34

ASPEN PARK 5.2 ESE

34

EVERGREEN 1 SW

33

NEDERLAND 4.2 E

32.4

CONIFER 3 SW

32.4

KITTREDGE 2.5 SSE

32

GENESEE

32

BELLVUE 10.3 W

31.2

NEDERLAND 5.8 E

30.7

EVERGREEN 4 S

30.6

CONIFER 3.4 WNW

30.5

NEDERLAND 4.8 ENE

30.4

LIVERMORE 10.6 W

30.2

CONIFER 4 ENE

30

BELLVUE 4.7 W

29.4

LIVERMORE 10.5 WSW

29

EVERGREEN 3.5 W

28.7

CASTLE ROCK 7.3 NNW

28.6

NEDERLAND 2.61 NNE

28

CONIFER 4.2 ENE

28

CONIFER 3.9 SE

28

EVERGREEN 3.6 SSW

28

HORSETOOTH MOUNTAIN 3.2 NNW

28

LIVERMORE 9.2 W

28

LIVERMORE 9.9 WSW

28

LOUVIERS 1 NW

28

ROXBOROUGH PARK 1.7 NNW

27.5

ROXBOROUGH PARK 2 NNW

27.3

BOULDER 6.8 WNW

27

KIOWA 14 ENE

26.1

AGATE 14 WSW

26

CONIFER 2.1 WSW

25.9

BOULDER 3 S

25.9

AGATE 6.2 SSW

25.5

CASTLE PINES 2.2 NNE

25.3

STOVE PRAIRIE 2 WNW

25.3

BUCKLEY AFB 10 SSE

25.2

EVERGREEN 6.5 WSW

25.2

GOLDEN 6.4 SSW

25.2

ARAPAHOE PARK 5 SSW

25.2

HIGHLANDS RANCH 2.7 SSE

25

ROXBOROUGH PARK 2.0 N

25

LITTLETON 8.2 WSW

25

PINE 3.4 NNW

25

TINY TOWN 3 ESE

25

WATKINS 8 SE

24.8

LIVERMORE 12 SW

24.5

BOULDER 6.8 SE

24.4

EVERGREEN 4.6 S

24.3

BEVERLY HILLS 2.0 WNW

24

EVERGREEN 5.3 S

24

KEN CARYL 0.6 WSW

24

LITTLETON 4.6 W

23.5

LITTLETON 6.6 W

23.2

BOULDER 1.6 S

22.7

BOULDER

22.7

BOULDER 3.5 S

22.6

BOULDER 2.9 S

22.5

LITTLETON 7.7 ESE

22.5

CASTLE ROCK 4.6 NNW

22.5

CASTLE ROCK 4 NNW

22.5

CASTLE ROCK 6.5 SW

22.2

BOULDER 4.7 E

22.1

DENVER 9.4 S

22

DENVER 2.0 SSE

22

PARKER 2.1 WNW

22

BERGEN PARK 2 ENE

22

EVERGREEN

22

BROOMFIELD 1.1 NE

21.8

KIOWA 12.7 ENE

21.8

LITTLETON 3.1 S

21.5

NIWOT 1.8 SSW

21.5

BROOMFIELD 1.7 WSW

21.5

SEDALIA 7.2 S

21.5

WESTMINSTER 1 SW

21.5

RIVERSIDE 2.2 NE

21.3

BOULDER 2 SSW

21.1

WESTMINSTER 3.0 W

21

BOULDER 1.8 ESE

20.7

DENVER 8 SSW

20.7

BOULDER 3.5 S

20.6

LAFAYETTE 0.4 WSW

20.5

LAKEWOOD 1.7 SW

20.5

FRANKTOWN 3.5 NE

20.2

LOUISVILLE 1 NNW

20.2

SUPERIOR 2.5 E

20.1

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE 2.1 N

20.1

DENVER 11.0 SSW

20

LITTLETON 6.2 WNW

20

NORTHGLENN

20

BROOMFIELD 1.2 NE

19.8

ELIZABETH 8.7 NNE

19.8

BROOMFIELD 1 WSW

19.8

WHEAT RIDGE 2 W

19.8

HIGHLANDS RANCH 2 WSW

19.7

LAKEWOOD 1.2 NW

19.7

DENVER 3.2 SSE

19.5

LAFAYETTE 0.8 WSW

19.4

GOLDEN 0.7 NW

19.3

LAKEWOOD 2.2 ESE

19.1

HIGHLANDS RANCH 3.2 ESE

19

PARKER 1.4 WNW

19

FRANKTOWN 2.1 ENE

19

HIGHLANDS RANCH 2 N

19

NW CASTLE ROCK

19

CENTENNIAL 2.0 SW

18.8

BOULDER 0.5 NNE

18.6

LAFAYETTE 2.5 NW

18.5

DENVER 5.4 SSE

18.5

DENVER 5.3 SW

18.5

WHEAT RIDGE 0.6 S

18.5

CHERRY CREEK RESERVOIR 2.8 N

18.4

BROOMFIELD 1.3 SSW

18.3

CASTLE ROCK 4 N

18.3

BOULDER 4.7 ENE

18.2

CHERRY CREEK RESERVOIR 1.9 N

18.1

NORTHGLENN 0.9 SW

18

DENVER 5.7 S

18

DENVER 2.1 ESE

18

CHATFIELD DAM 2 NW

18

ARVADA 2.7 NNE

18

ARVADA 3.3 NNW

18

GOLDEN 9.4 WNW

18

AURORA 3 SW

18

ELIZABETH 4 NW

18

PINE 1.3 ENE

17.9

DENVER 6.3 SSE

17.8

AURORA 8 SE

17.8

ARAPAHOE PARK 2 NNW

17.8

WHEAT RIDGE 2.8 WSW

17.6

BENNETT 9.8 N

17.5

BOULDER 5.4 ESE

17.5

LAKEWOOD 4.3 NNW

17.5

ARVADA 0.8 W

17.2

BOULDER 5 SE

17

DENVER 1.3 E

17

CALHAN 10.6 N

17

RALSTON BUTTES 1.1 NNW

17

LITTLETON 4 W

17

CHERRY CREEK DAM 4.7 ESE

16.9

BERTHOUD 4.4 WSW

16.9

DENVER 3.6 NNW

16.8

ERIE 1.7 WNW

16.5

DENVER 3.6 WSW

16.1

BENNETT 4 SSE

16

CHERRY CREEK DAM 6.7 SE

16

AURORA 2.8 WSW

16

ERIE 1.9 WNW

16

MORRISON 2.9 ESE

16

FEDERAL HEIGHTS 2 SSE

16

DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

15.9

LONGMONT 1.7 NNE

15.9

LAKEWOOD 0.9 SSW

15.8

THORNTON 5.4 NNE

15.5

AURORA 7.3 SE

15.5

BERTHOUD 5.2 SW

15.5

NIWOT 1 NW

15.5

LOVELAND 1.8 NW

15.4

AURORA 2.9 NW

15.3

GLEN HAVEN 7 N

15.1

THORNTON 7.5 ENE

15

DENVER 6.6 W

15

LAKEWOOD 4.3 NNE

14.6

SURREY RIDGE 3 NW

14.5

LOVELAND 4.0 W

14.4

THORNTON 2.1 N

14.3

GLEN HAVEN 1.2 N

14.3

DRAKE 5.3 WNW

14.1

LOVELAND 3.1 WNW

14.1

COMMERCE CITY 1.9 NNE

14

ESTES PARK 10.5 SE

14

NIWOT 2.3 W

14

DENVER 4.7 SW

14

FRANKTOWN 5.4 SE

13.9

LOVELAND 5.0 SW

13.8

THORNTON 2 NE

13.8

AURORA 7.6 ESE

13.5

LONGMONT 2.0 SSW

13.5

HOLYOKE 0.3 WSW

13.5

ERIE 1.6 NE

13.5

THORNTON 2.3 SSE

13.1

LONGMONT 2.1 N

13

BROOMFIELD 1.6 ENE

13

N LONGMONT

13

NE NORTHGLENN

13

HOLYOKE 0.4 SW

12.6

OTIS

12.5

LONGMONT 2.6 NE

12.3

LONGMONT 2.6 NW

12.2

LOVELAND 1.8 W

12.2

LOVELAND 5.3 WSW

12.2

LOVELAND 1.4 WSW

12.2

LOVELAND 2.4 SSE

11.9

LOVELAND 1.5 N

11.7

LOVELAND 1.7 W

11.6

LOVELAND 2.4 NW

11.5

LOVELAND 2.3 NW

11.5

FORT COLLINS 3.7 SW

11.3

LONGMONT 5.1 E

11.3

FORT COLLINS 2.8 WSW

11.1

LOVELAND 12.2 W

11.1

LOVELAND 2.4 NNW

11

ESTES PARK 2.2 S

10.9

LYONS 4.8 N

10.6

HYGIENE .79 N

10.1

LONGMONT 2.7 SW

10.1

FORT COLLINS 0.7 SSW

10.1

FORT COLLINS 4.6 N

10

LAPORTE 0.3 WNW

10

FREDERICK 1.1 SE

10

WOODROW 16.8 SSE

9.9

OTIS 6.4 WNW

9.8

LOVELAND 4 N

9.8

FORT COLLINS 1.8 SW

9.6

LONGMONT 8.2 ESE

9.5

FORT COLLINS 4.0 S

9.2

FORT COLLINS 3.3 SSW

9.2

BRIGHTON 4.0 WNW

9

LOVELAND

9

FORT COLLINS 5.4 N

8.9

LYONS 0.3 NNE

8.7

LOVELAND 3.0 NNE

8.7

MILLIKEN 2.5 NNW

8.7

FORT COLLINS 3.7 S

8.3

LOVELAND 3.8 SW

8.2

FORT COLLINS 0.9 SE

8

FORT COLLINS 2.8 NE

7.8

LOVELAND 3.4 NNE

7.5

FORT COLLINS 4.5 SSE

7.5

BERTHOUD 5.0 WSW

7.5

BAILEY 3 N

7.3

GREELEY 3.8 W

7

MILLIKEN 3.2 NNW

7

ESTES PARK 2.2 NE

6.7

STERLING 1.5 S

6.7

GREELEY 5.2 SW

6.5

BELLVUE 1 NW

6.4

BRUSH 0.8 S

6.2

LAKE GEORGE 7.2 WNW

6.1

GREELEY 10.5 SSE

6.1

LAKE GEORGE 7.5 WSW

6

HENDERSON 4.1 SSW

5.8

FORT COLLINS 10 SSE

5.6

BAILEY 6.4 NNW

5.5

IDAHO SPRINGS 4.9 NW

5

FORT COLLINS 4.8 SE

5

VIRGINIA DALE 7.2 SSW

5

HUDSON 4.8 WSW

5

STERLING 1.8 NW

4.7

HOLYOKE .59 SW

4.7

BLACK HOLLOW RESERVOIR 3.0 W

4.5

FORT MORGAN .7 SE

4.3

WINDSOR 3.4 SW

4.2

HILLROSE 2.5 SSW

4

GREELEY 6.6 E

3.8

TIMNATH 4.1 NNE

3.5

FAIRPLAY 2.7 WNW

3.3

JEFFERSON 12.1 SE

2.9

EATON 3.4 SE

2.9

PAGOSA SPRINGS 13.7 SSE

2

HARTSEL 12.0 S

1.8

BRECKENRIDGE 3.3 SE

1.5

TABERNASH 2.5 ENE

0.8

SILVERTHORNE 2.1 WSW

0.8

TABERNASH 1.9 W

0.5

SAN LUIS 8.8 SW

0.3

FRISCO 0.5 N

0.3

DILLON 0.6 WNW

0.3

PARSHALL 3.0 NNW

0.2

 

Finally, check out the post-storm visible satellite imagery showing most of Northeast Colorado buried under the fresh blanket of snow.  Image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory.



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