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COBWEB CORNERS: The end to the 1934-35 drought (Part 1)

By Mel McFarland

       During the winter of 1934-35, Colorado, as well as the Great Plains, was suffering from a drought. The Great Plains was being called the Dust Bowl and Colorado was on the west edge of it. This is the first part of a story about how different our weather can be.
       In the early '30s, this area was just getting interested in reservoirs. At the time, Colorado Springs relied on the lakes on the south slope of Pikes Peak for all its water. Denver's water came from several mountain reservoirs.
       But in 1934 things were looking grim.
       In Denver, the dwindling water reserves stood at only 10,715 million gallons. That may sound like a lot, until you realize it could be used up in a few weeks. To consolidate its reserves, Denver drained Eleven Mile reservoir, the water traveling down to Cheeseman reservoir. This did not fill Cheeseman, and Eleven Mile and Antero reservoirs were now empty. This left Colorado looking like the California stories we've heard about in recent months!
       What happened next was pure Colorado magic. As many of you already know, we get most of our moisture in the spring. In April 1935, between 30 and 40 cars were stalled between Midland and Divide as a result of a spring blizzard. Heavy snow, estimated at a foot on the level, was whipped by high winds into drifts four to five feet high. Motorists abandoned their cars and walked into Midland and Divide, where they spent the night. The clubhouse at Midland and the stores and homes in Divide were straining to take care of the stranded visitors.
       Two weeks later, a heavy snowstorm, which covered the entire state, assumed blizzard conditions in this area. Schools were closed at noon, and many of the mines closed as well. A few automobiles were able to make it on area roads, but drifting snow made travel difficult.
       Denver reported six inches of snow and at least that much fell in Colorado Springs. Warnings were issued against travel in the Midland-Divide area. Several cars were reported already in the ditches.
       But the drought was not yet over!

(Posted 2/16/16; Opinion: Cobweb Corners)

       Local historian Mel McFarland has been writing his Cobweb Corners column in the Westside Pioneer since 2004. To see past columns, go to the Pioneer's Archives. Either look for desired articles under the Cobweb Corners category for any year, or search by keywords in the Find box.

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