We knew it was coming. Colorado weather forecasters got it right. The word B-L-I-Z-Z-A-R-D was splayed across maps of the state 31 years ago. And the citizens who lived through the Blizzard of 1982 have never quite forgotten it.
On Christmas Eve, snow fell heavily on Denver, as everywhere in Colorado and it continued to fall through December 25. High winds whipped snow into massive drifts over highways, cars, livestock, houses and streets. Travelers were stranded for days after giving up the fight to get anywhere. Schools were already closed for the holiday, so most people stayed exactly where they were and waited out the storm.
The official tally by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was 23.8 inches. Some areas received a good deal more, closer to 29 inches.
I was tending bar at a neighborhood dive called “Don’s Club Tavern” on Christmas Eve in 1982. We were going to close early – eight PM – and when I arrived to start my 8-4 shift, the weather was cloudy, windy, and cold, but no snow to speak of – maybe an inch on the ground Within an hour, though, snow flurries started, and by one o’clock there was a foot of windblown snow drifting up against the front door of the joint. And the TV over the bar was going crazy with predictions of
three feet of snow, accompanied by high winds. Everybody was warned to get home, get off the streets, and stay off.
I called Don and he told me to shut the place down and head home, so I did. But first I trudged over to the King Soopers a couple blocks away and bought a couple of bags of groceries for the Christmas Dinner I was cooking for several friends.
I made it home okay, although the last few blocks, struggling with an armload of groceries against stand-you-up-straight blasts of wind and blinding sheets of white, were a major bitch.
The next morning the world had changed. Everything was white, and much of the appurtenances of modern civilization had vanished. I could look out from my balcony up and down Ogden Street and see no parked cars – they were buried. There were twenty foot drifts against the front of the building across the street from me.
I saw a few figures moving strangely down the middle of the street, and realized they were people on snowshoes and skis.
I went ahead and cooked dinner anyway, and believe it or not, most of the guests showed up – those who lived in the neighborhood and were able to plow their way on foot through the drifts. Nobody was able to drive in, though.
It was a great Christmas.