A massive winter storm that is being called a “bomb cyclone” walloped the Midwest plains on Wednesday and is expected to unleash more snow and rain.
The blizzard caused widespread power outages, led to the cancellation of more than 3,000 flights and may have been connected to the death of 52-year-old Colorado State Patrol Corporal Daniel Groves, who was struck by a vehicle on Wednesday as he tried to help a motorist in Weld County.
“It is a tragic reminder that people’s lives are at stake,” said Shoshana Lew, head of the Colorado Department of Transportation. “The best place to be is at home and off the roads.”
Investigators say “high speed in poor driving conditions” was believed to be a factor in Groves’ death.
The cause of the storm was a sudden and severe drop in ground-level air pressure. Experts call the rapid change in pressure a “bomb cyclone” or “bombogenesis.”
“It’s like a vacuum cleaner, really,” said Greg Carbin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center.
Jeff Berardelli of CBS News said the storm was caused by “a set of unique factors” that came together.
“The definition of bombogenesis is a pressure drop of 24 millibars in 24 hours,” he told CBS News. “This will far exceed that.”
Blizzards, floods and even a tornado from the storm impacted at least 25 states and blowing snow forced portions of major highways to close in Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota. A wind gust in Colorado Springs was recorded at 97 miles per hour.
“This is a very epic cyclone,” Carbin said. “We’re looking at something that will go down in the history books.”
Parts of seven states were under blizzard warnings, and 20 states were under some level of high wind alert, according to Carbin. The wind knocked out power for more than 125,000 people, mostly in Colorado and Texas, according to CNN.
The tornado that struck in the New Mexico town of Dexter ripped roofs off some of the buildings. About five people were injured, and a dairy was forced to euthanize 150 cows.