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Winter comes early to Falcon

Colorado weather is nothing, if not unpredictable.After a summer that arrived late, winter seems to have set in early this year, with at least four winter storms blowing through Falcon since mid-September.For the past couple of years, the first snow of the season usually arrived Halloween.October also is known for its big, blue skies, said Ruth Ann Steele, a Black Forest resident since the 1970s. She said the September and October snows this year seemed unusual to her.Steele lived in Littleton, Colo., in the early 1970s, when the Front Range was experiencing a severe drought.”We had some really, really dry years,” she said. “We went six months without a drop of moisture. One morning I woke up and heard a strange noise that turned out to be raindrops and that was the most glorious feeling.”It was after the drought that we moved to Black Forest and had some really big storms, one in December with drifts that came off the roof of my house. It was really miserable. We got 5 feet of snow and heavy winds, and the drifts were 20 feet deep. I’ve forgotten how long we were stranded.”Steele said it took almost two weeks to clear Hodgen Road because they had to use a snow blower – they couldn’t get the trucks in to plow.However, she said a spring storm that same year was worse.”It just raged for three days with heavy wind and heavy snow. All the electricity was off,” Steele said. “The drifts were horrendous and covered the ponds, so cattle and horses would be searching for food and walk right in and drown.”In the past few years, winters have been milder and warmer, she said. “I haven’t seen big drifts over the cliffs for years,” she added. “Maybe we’re in for a bad winter this year. I don’t know, but October has sure been a mess.”Predicting snowfall is a formidable task.Joe Ceru, a meterologist with the NOAA in Pueblo, said climate data has been collected for Colorado Springs since the city was founded.In 1901, the average annual temperature in Colorado Springs was 48.4 degrees. After peaking in 2003 at 50.1 degrees, the average dropped to 48.8 degrees in 2004, returned to 50 degrees in 2005, and hovered in the high 40s for 2006, 2007 and 2008, Ceru said.Ceru said analyzing climate data is “very daunting.””All the data coming from climate stations goes to the National Climatic Data Center, and they go through everything and verify it and then is made available to colleges and universities.”Climate studies coming from Colorado State are very, very reliable,” he added.When Colorado State University Climatologist Nolan Doesken presented at the Colorado Water Congress in 2007, he said, “Confidently detecting climatic trends is much more challenging and difficult than determining spatial patterns, seasonal cycles or year-to-year variations.”While noting that temperatures in Colorado are far more stable from one year to the next than precipitation, humidity, evaporation, wind, sunshine or cloudiness; Doesken also said that “upward trends in seasonal temperatures have become noticeable in parts of Colorado.””If the climate is changing, it will still be a long time before we can tell if our precipitation patterns are changing,” he said. Regardless, Doesken said residents should “always plan for a drought.”Dave Routhier, a Black Forest resident since 1987, said he’s baffled by the number of storms coming so close together this fall.”It’s been a few years since we’ve had snow this early,” Routhier said. “But it’s not unusual to have 4 feet of snow at this time of year.”We’ve got plenty of firewood in the fireplace, and I keep water in the tub in case the power goes out and we need to flush. We’ve got plenty of water to drink and we cook with natural gas, so we’re all set.”The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Web site shows Sept. 2, 1961, as the earliest snow day of the season, with a trace amount falling, in Colorado Springs. More snow data, according to the site:

  • Highest seasonal snowfall: 1956 to 1957, with 89.4 inches
  • Lowest seasonal snowfall: 2001 to 2002, with 15.9 inches
  • Record one-day snowfall: March 11, 1909, with 25.6 inches
  • Record one-month snowfall: April 1957, with 42.7 inches

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