Late-winter storm moves to Upper Midwest; flooding remains

Nellie Chapman
March 16, 2019

A blizzard of "historic proportions" that hit the U.S. Rocky Mountain and Plains states this week was moving eastward on Thursday as it weakened, hurling hurricane-force winds, tornadoes and heavy rain on its way, weather officials said.

The storm left quickly rising floods in its wake in parts of eastern Nebraska and Iowa that saw residents evacuated from their homes, roads washed out in communities, and farmers anxious all the water would drown livestock.

The National Weather Service also predicted river flooding from rain and snowmelt in parts of Iowa, which could last into the weekend. But the effects aren't expected to be as bad as what was seen farther west and south on Thursday, said meteorologist Paul Fajman in Omaha.

Scores of motorists took refuge at truck stops in eastern Wyoming while blowing snow forced portions of major highways to close in Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Flood warnings and watches remained in effect for Nebraska, Iowa and MI, forecasters said.

Ellenbolt also quoted Tony Mangan of the state's public safety department, who said, "I mean, if you don't have the snow in parts of the state, you have flooding in the southeast and south central parts".

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster declaration as first responders scrambled to rescue dozens of people from floodwater.

All the scientists agreed that aberrant climate conditions, such as the hurricanes that have ravaged U.S. East Coast and Gulf of Mexico states in recent years, were the results of climate change.

Parts of seven states were under blizzard warnings, and 20 states were under some level of high wind alert, Carbin said.

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"This has the potential to be a very severe weather event", Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts said.

Firefighters braved blizzard conditions on emergency call-outs in Parker, Colorado, after a "bomb cyclone" swept through the State on March 13.

In the Texas Panhandle, a utility worker was killed Wednesday while working to restore power amid strong winds pushed in by the storm. Extreme gusts of winds topping 100 miles per hour have slammed through areas of Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. It was caused by a combination of the jet stream and normal conditions in the wind shadow of the Rockies.

Daniel Groves, 52, was killed after a wayward 2001 Volvo had struck him while he was on the scene of another vehicle that slid off Interstate 76 in Weld County.

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Five people were hurt and 150 dairy cows had to be euthanized when a tornado hit the small town of Dexter, New Mexico.

This weather phenomenon is being labeled a "bomb cyclone" by meteorologists and this happens when the atmosphere is experiencing bombogenesis. A tornado touched down Thursday in western Kentucky, damaging utility lines and trees.

In Michigan, a tornado touchdown was reported Thursday in Vernon, southwest of Flint, and in nearby Durand. Homes were reported damaged, while power was knocked out to thousands. Groves had gotten out of his patrol auto to check on another vehicle that had slid off the road, police said.

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