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Hurricane Blizzard: Massive 'Bomb Cyclone' Bears Down on Continental US

16 March 2019

Wednesday's blizzard in Colorado caused widespread power outages, forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights and wreaked havoc on roadways as drivers became overwhelmed by blinding snow.

"Some of the devastating flooding associated with this storm is due to the fact that heavy rain is falling on areas where there is snow on the ground", said Kristina Dahl, senior climate scientist of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

"With the frozen ground and amount of rain our area had, it was just a flawless set of circumstances that led to the flooding we're seeing in Nebraska and Iowa", Fajman said.

Thirteen tornados were reported on Thursday in Kentucky, Indiana and MI, said Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, but there were no immediate reports of serious damage. The center of the storm was parked over Iowa and Nebraska on early Thursday after it had dumped up to 45 inches of snow in parts of Southern Colorado in the days before. "By mid-morning the heart of the storm will be western Iowa, headed toward Wisconsin and MI, where it will bring about a half-inch of warm rain", Hurley said.

"Climate change is linked to unusual jet stream behavior and warming in the Gulf of Mexico, both of which can affect storm activity", she said.

"Travel will remain hard and life threatening across these areas, with improving conditions Thursday night into Friday as the storm pushes farther off to the northeast", the NWS says.

As the storm headed north into Canada, snow will keep falling over the Dakotas and western Minnesota, with some areas seeing as much as a foot of the white stuff. It combines the force and wrath of the worst weather conditions, such as thunderstorms, severe blizzards, gusty winds, and flash floods.

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The Colorado National Guard announced it had rescued 93 people and two dogs after inspecting about 250 vehicles. It urged residents to stay off the road "as it's easy to get stuck out there".

Meteorologists referred to the storm as a "bomb cyclone", a winter hurricane that forms when the barometric pressure drops 24 millibars in 24 hours.

Some 250 vehicles were stranded out on the road in central Colorado, with drivers having to wait for hours in freezing temperatures before being rescued, according to Jacqueline Kirby, spokeswoman for the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

The department had reports of 1,100 stranded cars early Thursday, she said, and emergency crews were conducting searches amid snowdrifts as high as their SUVs, she said.

"We've had a variety of calls". We have people with children.

Bill Cooley, who works in Colorado Springs, said it usually takes him about 20 minutes to get home to Monument, but Wednesday it took eight hours. He eventually made it to a truck stop about a mile and a half from his house, he said. Also contributing were Associated Press reporters Dan Elliott in Longmont, Colorado; David Pitt in Des Moines, Iowa; Bob Moen and Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyoming; Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee; James Anderson and Thomas Peipert in Denver; Jeff Baenen in Minneapolis; Josh Funk in Omaha, Nebraska; Seth Borenstein in Washington; David Warren in Dallas; Kathleen Foody in Denver.

Hurricane Blizzard: Massive 'Bomb Cyclone' Bears Down on Continental US