Late-winter storm hits Midwest after paralyzing Colorado

  • A semi truck and trailer are swept off the road by floodwaters Thursday in Arlington, Neb. Evacuations forced by flooding have occurred in several eastern Nebraska communities, as western Nebraska residents struggled with blizzardlike conditions. AP PHOTO

  • Mary Roncka and her husband Gene Roncka, right, accompanied by neighbor Kevin Mandina are evacuated as floodwaters rise Thursday, March 13, 2019, in Ashland, Neb. Evacuations forced by flooding have occurred in several eastern Nebraska communities, as western Nebraska residents struggled with blizzardlike conditions. (Brendan Sullivan/Omaha World-Herald via AP) BRENDAN J. SULLIVAN

  • City of Scottsbluff, Neb. plows work to clear snow from Broadway on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Evacuations forced by flooding have occurred in several eastern Nebraska communities, as western Nebraska residents struggled with blizzardlike conditions. (Spike Jordan/The Star-Herald via AP) SPIKE JORDAN/Star-Herald

  • Blowing snow reduces visibility at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial near Keystone, S.D., Wednesday. A window-rattling storm brought blizzards, floods and a tornado across more than 25 states Wednesday, stretching from the northern Rocky Mountains to Texas and beyond. AP PHOTO

  • A string of wrecked vehicles sit on an overpass over Interstate 70 as a late winter storm packing hurricane-force winds and snow sweeps over the intermountain West Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Aurora, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) David Zalubowski

  • This undated photo provided by the Colorado State Patrol shows Cpl. Daniel Groves. The state patrol officer was hit and killed by a car as he was helping another driver who had slid off of Interstate 76 northeast of Denver. A window-rattling late winter storm brought blizzards, floods and a tornado across more than 25 states Wednesday, March 13 , 2019, stretching from the northern Rocky Mountains to Texas and beyond. (Colorado State Patrol via AP)

  • Canada geese battle choppy water as a late winter storm packing hurricane-force winds and snow sweeps over the intermountain West Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) David Zalubowski

  • Bobby Larson drops into the bowl on a snowboard in Edora Park on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Fort Collins, Colo. A winter storm hit the western U.S., with blizzard conditions expected to engulf parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota. (Timothy Hurst/The Coloradoan via AP) Timothy Hurst

  • A cross country skier travels in the snow on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Fort Collins, Colo. A winter storm hit the western U.S., with blizzard conditions expected to engulf parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota. (Timothy Hurst/The Coloradoan via AP) Timothy Hurst

  • People walk a dog in the snow on Wednesday in Fort Collins, Colo. Low air pressure is how meteorologists measure the strength of a storm, and this is the strongest in Colorado since at least 1950. AP PHOTO

  • Vehicles stack up on the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 near Tower Road as a late winter storm packing hurricane-force winds and snow sweeps over the intermountain West Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Aurora, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) David Zalubowski

  • A lone pedestrian struggles along Broadway as a late winter storm packing hurricane-force winds and snow sweeps over the intermountain West Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) David Zalubowski

  • White-out conditions along Happy Jack Road during a blizzard on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Cheyenne. White-out conditions closed I-80, I-25, and U.S. 85, effectively closing off the state capital from Nebraska, Colorado and the rest of Wyoming. (Jacob Byk/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP) Jacob Byk

  • A traveler drags a suitcase as a late winter storm packing hurricane-force winds and snow sweeps over the intermountain West Wednesday. AP PHOTOi

  • Traffic comes to a halt on eastbound Interstate 70 near Tower Road as a late winter storm packing hurricane-force winds and snow sweeps over the intermountain West Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Aurora, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) David Zalubowski

  • High water floods a street Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Hooper, Neb. A window-rattling late winter storm brought blizzards, floods and a tornado across more than 25 states Wednesday, stretching from the northern Rocky Mountains to Texas and beyond. (Ryan Soderlin/Omaha World-Herald via AP) RYAN SODERLIN

Associated Press
Published: 3/15/2019 12:19:40 AM

LONGMONT, Colo. — A blizzard that paralyzed parts of Colorado and Wyoming barreled into the Midwest on Thursday, bringing whiteout conditions to western Nebraska and dumping heavy rain that prompted evacuations in communities father east.

Emergency crews responded after a vehicle was swept off a road in Norfolk, Nebraska, and rising water along the Elkhorn River prompted evacuations of the eastern side of the city of 24,000 people. The missing individual had not been found by midmorning Thursday.

South Dakota’s governor closed all state offices Thursday as the blizzard conditions moved in, while wind, blowing snow and snow-packed roadways made travel treacherous in western Nebraska. Heavy rain caused flooding in eastern parts of both states, as well as in Iowa.

The massive late-winter storm hit Colorado on Wednesday, causing widespread power outages, forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights and wreaked havoc on roadways as drivers became overwhelmed by blinding snow. A wind gust clocked in at 97 mph (156 kph) in Colorado Springs.

In the Texas Panhandle, a utility worker was killed while working to restore power amid strong winds pushed in by the storm. Wind gusts in the area exceeded 80 mph (128.74 kph).

The storm also contributed to the death of Daniel Groves, a Colorado State Patrol officer who was hit and killed by a car as he helped another driver who had slid off Interstate 76 near Denver.

National Guard troops used specialized vehicles with tank-like treads to rescue stranded drivers. Officials with the Colorado National Guard and state police said they believed all stranded motorists had been rescued overnight, but searches were ongoing Thursday.

The Red Cross reported Thursday that 620 people had stayed in shelters overnight in Colorado and Wyoming.

The window-rattling storm brought blizzards, floods and a tornado across more than 25 states Wednesday, stretching from the northern Rocky Mountains to Texas and beyond.

“This is a very epic cyclone,” said Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center. “We’re looking at something that will go down in the history books.”

The culprit was a sudden and severe drop in ground-level air pressure in Colorado, the most pronounced dive since 1950, Carbin said. It was caused by a combination of the jet stream and normal conditions in the wind shadow of the Rockies.

Air rushed into the low-pressure area and then rose into the atmosphere.

“It’s like a vacuum cleaner, really,” Carbin said. When that much air rushes higher into the atmosphere, it causes severe weather.

Meteorologists call the rapid change in pressure a “bomb cyclone” or “bombogenesis.”

A tornado in New Mexico ripped roofs from buildings in the small town of Dexter, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southwest of Albuquerque. Authorities said five people were hurt, but none of the injuries was life-threatening. A dairy euthanized about 150 cows injured by the tornado.

High winds knocked 25 railroad freight cars off a bridge into a mostly dry riverbed near Logan in northeast New Mexico. No one was injured, New Mexico State Police said.




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