A “bomb cyclone” is dumping snow and heavy rain on the central United States, stranding travelers, leaving tens of thousands without electricity and leading to a police officer’s death in Colorado.
The storm’s center was over Iowa and Nebraska early Thursday, and while it did its worst damage in the Plains, it will continue delivering dangerous weather conditions to 105 million people who are under some sort of watch, warning or advisory as it moves east.
A bomb cyclone occurs when there is a rapid pressure drop, with a decrease of at least 24 millibars — a measure of atmospheric pressure — over 24 hours. This storm dropped 33 millibars from Tuesday into Wednesday.
The storm brings with it all manner of nastiness. A tornado just missed the National Weather Service’s office in West Paducah, Kentucky, early Thursday, the service said. Colorado is seeing blizzard conditions, while Iowa and Illinois are experiencing flooding, especially in areas along the Mississippi River. Nebraska has been hit hard by flooding, while the Platte, Elkhorn and Missouri rivers have topped their banks in Missouri.
Winds of more than 100 mph have slammed into San Augustin Pass, New Mexico, and Pine Springs, Texas. Through early Thursday, residents of Colorado, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma can expect winds of between 30 and 50 mph, with gusts in some areas reaching 65 mph, according to forecasts.
Adding to the misery of those in its path, the bomb cyclone threatens to bring severe storms, flash flooding, dense fog and possible tornadoes as it treks across the central part of the country.
Tornado watches have been issued in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.
About 175,000 people are without power, most of them in Colorado and Texas. Several Colorado school districts closed Wednesday and Thursday, with Denver Public Schools citing “severe storm, power outages across the city and poor road conditions.”
Denver is one of the hardest-hit areas, though Wolf Creek Pass, near the New Mexico border, has recorded 45 inches of snow. Blizzard and avalanche warnings have been issued across Colorado.
The snow will keep falling over the Dakotas and western Minnesota, with some areas seeing as much as a foot of the white stuff. Parts of South Dakota have already gotten 15 inches of snow.