The biggest blizzard known hit Denver a century ago, in the first days of December, 1913. The snowstorm of historic proportions swooped over Colorado and other western states, leaving a devastating crust of heavy snow 45.7 inches deep in the city.
By Friday, December 5, the city was clambering from under its white mantle, trying to get back to business. Hilarious headlines of the day read, “Schools Are All Closed Until Safety Reigns!” and “Mantle of Shimmering White Stops Activity And Everybody Jollifies!”
The Denver Post, rarely to be accused of understatement, published its “SOUVENIR EDITION OF THE DAY OF THE BIG STORM” and whipped up headlines such as: “No trains… No Schools… No Taxis, No Mails, No Noises, No Deliveries, No Funerals, Nothing But Snow, Snow, Snow and Still Falling…”
Today, most people have experienced a big snowstorm or two, but it may be difficult to imagine how paralyzing a blizzard can be; the amount of snowfall coupled with fierce winds creates drifts that can bury livestock, farmhouses, roads, trains, streets, building entries and vehicles.
“Guard Your Coal Bin” brays a headline. “Downtown stores, hospitals, city institutions are cold today. They find themselves with a limited supply of coal on hand and are forced to be sparing in its use. Every person in Denver who has not at least a week’s supply should watch every pound of coal.”
There was further worry about poor people who could not get out of their homes to buy a few more lumps of coal.
But the main civic problem in 1913 became evident as snow removal got underway. Where, oh where, to put it all?
Any open space became a target for dumping of tons of snow removed from city streets. In the photo below, the state Capitol building can be seen, showing an open area not far from today’s Civic Center Park. Horses and mule teams and wagons, still in common use, were employed for days, clearing up walkways and roads.
Snow removal, 1913 blizzard
The photo below shows that even days afterward, snow removal activity is ongoing on 16th Street in downtown Denver, when sidewalks are clear but only a center track of the street is yet passable.
Wagon teams tackle snow removal.
However, in mountain communities, the situation was more dire. Up to 60″ of snow had fallen in some Colorado communities, as the photo below shows. This is a shot of the corner of Main and Eureka Streets in Central City. Weeks would go by before any regular transportation routes could be renewed.
Central City, 1913
Source: Denver Post