News Late-winter storm hits Midwest after paralyzing Colorado BLAKE NICHOLSON and NELSON LAMPE•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)OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — 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 farther east.Emergency crews responded after a vehicle was swept off a road in Norfolk, Nebraska, and rising water along the Elkhorn River prompted evacuations in the city of 24,000 people. The missing individual had not been found by midday Thursday.Evacuations also occurred in several other eastern Nebraska communities and at least one Iowa town. Cara Jamison and her neighbors had to leave their homes in Fremont, Nebraska, after water and ice chunks from a flooding Platte River blocked their street. She and her husband moved photo albums to the second floor of their home.”Photos are the important things,” she said. „Furniture can be replaced.”South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem closed all state offices Thursday as the blizzard conditions moved in, and later in the day ordered the opening of the state’s Emergency Operations Center to handle the response to the blizzard and flooding. The state was preparing an emergency declaration, Noem said. The Red Cross opened shelters in Sioux Falls and Yankton.Wind, blowing snow and snow-packed roadways also made travel treacherous in western Nebraska.Heavy rain caused flooding in eastern parts of South Dakota and Nebraska, as well as in Iowa, where all or part of nine state parks were closed due to rising flood waters. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an emergency disaster proclamation Thursday and activated the state emergency operations center.Several cities in the region have been hit by rain this week, with records set Wednesday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Sioux City, Iowa.”We’ve got a lot of water, and it’s got to find a way to get out of here,” said Tracy West, mayor of Lennox, South Dakota.The system was moving out of the central Plains on Thursday, but National Weather Service meteorologist Peter Rogers said flooding is likely to persist into the weekend in parts of South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa, with deeply frozen ground preventing rain and snowmelt from soaking into the soil.The massive late-winter storm hit Colorado on Wednesday, causing widespread power outages, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights and wreaking havoc on roadways. A wind gust clocked in at 97 mph (156 kph) in Colorado Springs.Xcel Energy said it had restored power to some 360,000 customers in Colorado but that thousands remained without electricity Thursday. Some may have no power into the weekend.In the Texas Panhandle, a utility worker was killed while working to restore power amid strong winds pushed in by the storm. And in New Mexico, 36 miners at a nuclear waste repository were trapped underground in an elevator for about three hours because of a power outage caused by the extreme weather. Outages also were reported from North Dakota to Nebraska.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.About 50 National Guard soldiers and airmen used specialized vehicles with tank-like treads to rescue 75 people stranded in their cars during the storm. The total number of people rescued statewide is likely higher, as local law enforcement ran separate rescue efforts.The Red Cross reported Thursday that 620 people had stayed in shelters overnight in Colorado and in Wyoming, where the state Transportation Department reported snow drifts on Interstate 80 that were as high as 10 feet (3 meters).Jackie Ratcliff stayed in a hotel and on Thursday was waiting in Wellington, Colorado, for Interstate 25 to reopen so she could return to her home in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She had tried to make the trip Wednesday but the interstate was shut down due to a pileup — one she thinks she narrowly avoided.”I’m feeling pretty lucky,” she said, despite her dog at home needing to be fed.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.Five people were hurt and 150 dairy cows had to be euthanized when a tornado hit the small town of Dexter, New Mexico. A tornado also touched down Thursday in western Kentucky , damaging utility lines and trees. There were no immediate reports of injuries.The culprit was a sudden and severe drop in ground-level air pressure in Colorado, the most pronounced dive since 1950 and something „that will go down in the history books,” said Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center.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, causing severe weather.Meteorologists call the rapid change in pressure a „bomb cyclone” or „bombogenesis.”_Nicholson reported from Bismarck, North Dakota. 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.
PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) — A tornado touched down Thursday in Kentucky, leaving some damage and at least one injury, officials said.
A state of emergency was declared in a western Kentucky county where the storm spread damage around a 5-square-mile (13-square kilometer) area, knocking down power lines and covering roadways in debris, officials said.
State police said at least one injury has been reported in McCracken County from the storm. Emergency crews were going door-to-door in the area to check on residents.
State trooper Rob Austin said it appears that dozens of homes were damaged, and high winds were continuing in the area Thursday afternoon.
„Things are still flying,” he said.
Authorities said buildings were damaged, including a preschool. Forty students were inside but none were reported hurt.
The twister plowed through parts of western Kentucky, including the West Paducah area, according to Keith Todd, a spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. He said the public was being asked to avoid the area while utility crews, area fire departments, and rescue squads worked to clear utility lines, downed trees and other debris.
Weather officials in Paducah said it blew past their office.
During the morning, the National Weather Service in Paducah tweeted, „TORNADO JUST MISSED OUR OFFICE IN WEST PADUCAH. TAKE SHELTER NOW IF YOU’RE IN PADUCAH!!!!”
Video of the Kentucky tornado was posted on social media. Jared Borum filmed the forming twister as it moved across a field of trees in Paducah. Borum and a room full of others watched the funnel grow and whip across the field.
„It’s amazing. See the debris? You can see it hitting the trees,” Borum said on his recording.
People could be heard saying, „You can see the tornado right here,” ”Oh my God,” „What in tarnation” and „It’s a legit tornado.”
Weather forecasters say numerous severe storms are possible beginning Thursday afternoon in the Tennessee Valley region and as far south as the northern Birmingham area.
Officials said schools were closing early in north Alabama because of the severe weather possibility.
Forecasters say winds up to 60 mph (97 kph) are possible along with isolated tornadoes and hail.
The state is on the southern end of a storm system that pummeled the central United States.
Intense winds below over an 18-wheeler in Texas Wednesday, marking one of many vehicles that toppled because of unruly weather.
In a viral video posted to social media by photographer Blake Brown, the semi-truck can be seen driving along Interstate 40 in Amarillo.
Eventually, its back wheels were pulled up into the air, sending the trailer and the rest of the truck on its side, where its hood appeared to fall off.
“Oh my god, oh my god,” Brown said in the clip.
He later shared a second video showing a FedEx truck in Amarillo blown sideways by the wind.
Marc Williams, deputy executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, confirmed on Twitter that the trucks captured by Brown were, indeed, just some of many.
…One of several reported semi trucks blown over today with extremely high winds on Texas highways. Use caution in and around high profile vehicles across the north and western portions of the state. Watch out for debris as well. #DriveSafeBlake Brown@BlakeBrownWx
Semi truck being blown over and sliding into the ditch in Amarillo Tx!!! Extreme winds gusting to 80MPH with wind spread damage throughout the area. #txwx #highwindwarning
“One of several reported semi trucks blown over today with extremely high winds on Texas highways,” he wrote. “Use caution in and around high profile vehicles across the north and western portions of the state. Watch out for debris as well. #DriveSafe.”
The Amarillo Police Department said in an advisory it had received several reports of high-profile vehicles being blown over by the wind.
“Please avoid driving a high profile vehicle if you can,” the advisory read. “There have been many reports of debris in the roadways causing traffic hazards. If you don’t have a reason to get out please avoid driving.”
A spokesperson from the Amarillo Police Department tells PEOPLE that no major injuries were reported from the wind storm Wednesday.
“There were multiple trucks that were blown over due to the wind and several calls on broken light poles, trees that were uprooted, down power lines and damage to buildings,” the spokesperson said. “We were very blessed not to have any major injuries during that.”
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The Latest on a winter storm hitting the West and Midwest (all times local):
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed an emergency disaster proclamation that allows state resources to be used in response to flooding in the state.
Reynolds on Thursday also activated the state emergency operations center to coordinate the flood response and help monitor rapidly evolving conditions.
The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings and a wind advisory for Thursday afternoon and evening in portions of Iowa, and says river flooding will continue through the weekend due to excessive runoff from recent rainfall and snowmelt.
The governor’s action allows people in 21 counties to qualify for grants to cover flood-related expenses.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says it has closed all or part of nine state parks due to rising flood waters.
A massive late-winter storm has produced record rainfall in parts of the Midwest, with flooding happening in several states.
The National Weather Service reports several cities in eastern South Dakota and northwestern Iowa set rainfall records for the date Wednesday.
Flooding is occurring in those states and it’s forced the 200 residents of Hornick, Iowa, to evacuate. Evacuations also are occurring in several eastern Nebraska communities.
Authorities say a hydroelectric power dam failed on the Niobrara River in northern Nebraska, damaging a highway. No one was hurt.
Weather service meteorologist Peter Rogers says flooding is likely to persist into the weekend.
Lennox, South Dakota, Mayor Tracy West says there’s a lot of water around and „it’s got to find a way to get out of here.”
A utility worker in the Texas Panhandle was killed while working to restore power amid powerful winds pushed in by a storm system that’s pummeling parts of the Midwest .
Amarillo-based Xcel Energy says the man died Wednesday evening while working in Hereford, near the New Mexico border. Wind gusts in the area exceeded 80 mph (128.74 kph).
The utility says 121,000 customers in Texas and New Mexico were without power Wednesday, but that number had dropped significantly by Thursday morning.
A powerful storm barreled into the Midwest after causing widespread power outages in Colorado, where a blizzard forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights and wreaked havoc on roadways.
Flooding caused by a massive late-winter storm prompted evacuations in eastern Nebraska communities as authorities searched for one person whose vehicle was swept away by floodwaters.
Norfolk Public Safety Director Shane Weidner says emergency crews responded early Thursday when a vehicle was swept off a local road. The missing individual had not been found by midmorning Thursday.
Rising water on the Elkhorn River prompted an evacuation of the eastern side of Norfolk. Evacuations also occurred in several other eastern Nebraska communities.
On the other side of the state, western Nebraska residents were struggling with blizzard-like conditions with wind gusts approaching 90 mph (144.8 kph). The weather moved in after causing widespread power outages in Colorado, where a blizzard forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights and wreaked havoc on roadways.
Chicago (AFP) – A massive late-winter storm hit several central US states Thursday, forcing thousands to evacuate, snarling air traffic and leaving drivers stranded.
There were widespread road closures and more than 1,000 flights canceled at the worst affected airports.
The intense storm affected much of the nation’s midsection with „heavy snows, blizzard conditions and widespread wind gusts over hurricane force,” according to the National Weather Service.
„Travel will remain difficult and life threatening across these areas,” the NWS said.
The deluge caused flooding in parts of Nebraska and Iowa.
Raging waters washed away a bridge in one part of Nebraska, while nearly toppling a levee near the small city of Norfolk — requiring thousands of residents to evacuate.
„It’s a very serious event, one of the most serious we’ve seen in our history,” Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning told a news briefing.
Law enforcement in the state launched rescues of stranded people in various communities due to flooded roads and buildings.
„Many rivers are now cresting, but others have yet to,” the National Weather Service in Omaha said.
„As water works from tributaries to main arteries, additional crests can occur downstream.”
Numerous tornado warnings were issued from the South in Alabama to the Midwest in Indiana.
One tornado touched down in a sparsely-populated area of Kentucky.
State police said it caused damage over a five-square-mile region but only one non-life-threatening injury.
„First responders are checking all residences in the area to ensure everyone’s safety,” the police said in a statement.
In Iowa, a small town of about 200 people was evacuated after a levee breach sent water flooding into the area, according to the Des Moines Register.
Nearly 800 flights were canceled at the Denver airport, a day after all runaways were closed by howling wind and snow in Colorado.
More than 300 flights also were canceled in Chicago.
DENVER, March 14 (Reuters) – Runways were cleared, the lights came back on and stranded motorists and airline passengers were back on the move on Thursday as the blizzard that pounded the U.S. Rocky Mountain and Plains states shoves eastward and fizzled to rain.
Shortly after midnight, four of the six runways at Denver International Airport had been cleared, spokeswoman Emily Williams told Reuters.
And while some flights resumed, the airport was not expected to be fully operational until midday on Thursday as airlines had still had to dispatch more planes to Denver to replace those diverted or canceled earlier, she said.
Flight cancellations were down to around 600 for Thursday, from more than 1,300 in the region a day earlier.
Power outages in Colorado still affected about 88,000 customers and 77,000 in Texas early on Thursday morning, according to the tracking site poweroutage.us.
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Stranded motorists across the region had been reached and helped before midnight, a spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol spokesman said early Thursday. Around 1,100 motorists were reported as stranded on Interstate 25 near Colorado Springs a day earlier.
A state of emergency was still in effect in Colorado as cities and towns dig out from the storm during which gusts of 70 mpg pushed tractor trailers sidewise and left up to two feet of snow in some areas.
The storm was blamed for the death of a Colorado state trooper who was hit by a car sliding on ice on the highway while he attended to a car wreck.
Schools and government offices remained closed Thursday across the region.
„There’s still a few headlines left on this storm,” said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
The storm – previously dubbed a „bomb cyclone” for its quick, late season punch – was still expected to prompt warnings of blizzards and snow before noon in north central Kansas and Nebraska, Hurley said.
Remnants of the snow fall and rain would clear from Denver and the mountain and plains areas by midday, he said.
„By mid-morning the heart of the storm will be western Iowa, headed toward Wisconsin and Michigan, where it will bring about a half-inch of warm rain,” Hurley said. Some flood watches and warnings were in place in the midwest as rain will spur accumulated snow to melt, he said.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; writing and additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
The Hawaii Civil Defence sent a message at 1.30am local time on Wednesday to notify locals of the activity, which received some attention from individuals on social media late in the night.
“Just felt a huge earthquake on east shore of Big Island. Shook for a good 10-15 seconds,” one local tweeted.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre says that the earthquake itself occurred just before minding, an that it centre was near the Kilauea volcano on the main island of the state.
The quake was not, however, large enough to trigger tsunami warnings for the island.
“Tsunami NOT expected,” the US National Tsunami Warning Centre tweeted.
Still, locals in Hawaii were warned that there after shocks could still be on the way, and that residents should make precautionary checks for damage.
Among those damages of most concern are impacts on utility connections like gas, electricity, and water, according to the state’s civil defence.
A “bomb cyclone” is approaching the central U.S. and is expected to bring blizzard conditions and strong winds to a major portion of the country.
Bomb cyclones occur when a quickly forming storm results in a drop in atmospheric pressure of at least 24 millibars.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has warned of a major winter storm ranging from the Central Rockies through the Plains. Severe blizzard conditions are expected across parts of Wyoming, western Nebraska, western South Dakota and northeast Colorado. Blizzard warnings were put into effect from northeast Colorado and southeast Wyoming across western Nebraska and southwest South Dakota, according to NWS.
CNN reports 70 million people are in the path of the storm, with 45 million under a high wind threat, 10 million under winter storm threats and about 15 million facing a flood threat.
The storm, while more intense in its overall impact than other weather events that generally in hit mid-March, is not too unusual for this time of the year, says Matt Rinde, a senior meteorologist at Accuweather.
“These are early spring storms that really do show their hand in something like this quite often,” he says.
Here’s what to expect from the bomb cyclone.
Strong winds are surpassing 80 mph
Winds are predicted to blow between 50 and 70 miles per hour across the region, and heavy snow accumulating to at least 6 inches is likely in parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and the Dakotas.
430 AM Looks as though we’re off to a windy start this morning. Current wind gusts are mapped below, East slopes of the Franklin and San Andres Mts show the strongest gusts so far, 60 mph gusts at Biggs AF. High Wind Warning for all of S. NM & far W. TX until midnight tonight
In western Texas, New Mexico, parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado, wind gusts are expected to exceed 60 miles per hour. Portions of western Texas have already seen winds between 70 and 80 miles per hour, with some even going beyond 80 mph, according to Rinde.
Strong winds are a hallmark of bomb cyclones, Rinde says, and he calls the scale of the one beginning to slam parts of the midwest “impressive.” Because the storm ranges across a wide swath of the U.S., the system’s impact will differ depending on where it hits.
“It’s a powerful storm system that when it starts to come together, strengthens very quickly,” Rinde says. “With severe weather on the southern side, blizzard conditions on the northern side, the concern for flooding, and then, the winds that are outside of the thunderstorms. It’s an impressive event from top to bottom.”
Heavy snow will cover the region
Widespread, heavy snows are expected between Wednesday and Thursday across the Central High Planes and Upper Mississippi Valley, according to NWS. Snow will blanket the areas where blizzard conditions are likely, such as parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. Freezing rain will also bring ice accumulation to impacted areas.
Here’s an update on the storm moving into the region beginning late tonight continuing through Thursday. There are multiple hazards, including freezing rain and snow, with this system. Continue to stay up to date with the latest forecast.
Travel plans impacted
Nearly 1,000 flights coming in and going out of Denver International Airport have been cancelled as of Wednesday morning, according to FlightAware. A blizzard warning is in effect for Denver.
Denver Public Schools cancelled classes due to the severe weather, the school district said in a tweet.
Southwest Airlines cancelled 411 flights, while SkyWest Airlines, headquartered in Utah, had cancelled 259 flights by Wednesday morning. United Airlines also cancelled 133 flights.
Rinde advises that travelers in the region give themselves as much extra time as they can and to avoid the storm, if possible.
“It’s better to be out of it,” he says.
The tornado that devastated Lee County, Alabama, on March 3 came as a shock, but not a surprise. Meteorologists had warned of severe weather days in advance. Forecasters monitored the area closely, blasting out warnings as soon as individual tornadoes were detected. Despite those efforts, 23 people died.
How can we be so good at predicting dangerous weather and still lose so many lives in a single day? The answer lies in understanding not only the storms but also the people–and the impact of income, class, ethnicity, culture and, most of all, inequality on how we react to hazards.
While solving the factors that put specific groups at greater risk would be a monumental task, there’s a more realistic fix: smarter warnings. Alerts that not only describe the weather but also take into account human demographics and psychology could save lives. Yet work on this front surprisingly remains in very early stages.
The tragedy of Lee County illustrates one issue: mobile homes, which accounted for multiple fatalities as the 170-m.p.h. winds annihilated the structures. In 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) launched a pioneering project called VORTEX-Southeast to examine why tornadoes are disproportionately deadly in the southeastern U.S. Researchers there have discovered that lower-income individuals living in mobile homes are not only at greater risk for storm dangers but also can be less prepared to respond to warnings.
The risk part of the equation is simple. Mobile homes, while affordable, are less able to withstand high winds. The response side is more complicated. VORTEX surveys found that mobile-home residents were essentially as likely as anyone to follow the general guidance for taking shelter in a tornado, which is to get to an interior room on the lowest floor, ideally the basement. Problem is, the recommendation for what to do in a mobile home is very different: get out, and go to an underground shelter or a permanent building.
“It seems they heard this messaging from the weather service that goes out to everyone, that says get inside,” says Kim Klockow-McClain, who leads the Societal Impacts Group at NSSL. “But it fails these people, because that’s not what they need to do.”
Communication, whether it comes from government officials, radio or TV broadcasters, or a smartphone app, must provide the right message to the right people. For mobile-home dwellers, the lead times from actual warnings–which average 15 to 16 minutes but can be shorter–are usually too narrow to make it to safety. Instead they must pay particular attention to public alerts that tornadoes are possible–called watches–and make sure they are able to quickly get to shelter if a warning comes. That guidance should be emphasized in advance forecasts.
As the science of predicting tornadoes improves, weather experts envision something between a watch and a warning. This could alert people to increasing odds of a tornado in their area before it actually forms–especially helpful to those who can’t quickly duck into a basement.
Of course, tornadoes are a danger to everyone, and the Lee County storm was strong enough to destroy permanent homes too. It will take weeks or months to fully understand why the death toll in Alabama was so high. (Indeed, the tragedy appears likely to become an important case study.) And as a practical matter, smarter warnings aren’t enough if people can’t find safety; many mobile-home communities throughout the country still lack shelters.
Inequality like this can take many other forms–all of which need to be examined more closely. In hurricane- and flood-prone areas, for instance, researchers are considering such variables as making sure immigrant populations get critical warnings delivered in the proper language, and how the cost of temporary relocation affects low-income families’ decisions on whether to evacuate.
Even as scientists work to improve predictions of dangerous weather, more accurate forecasts aren’t enough. Researchers need to understand the human equation to get the right information to the right people. With climate change driving extreme weather, both avenues of progress will be crucial in saving lives.
Maputo (AFP) – Mozambique has cancelled flights to several domestic destinations as a tropical cyclone, potentially the strongest to hit the country in nearly two decades, approached threatening to bring chaos to southern Africa.
The wave of cancellations came as the UN warned that „tropical cyclone Idai has regained intensity and is expected to make landfall near Beira city in central Mozambique” later Thursday.
At least 126 people have been killed in Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa as heavy rains hit southeastern Africa over the past week, affecting more than one million people, officials said.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that the incoming storm could bring winds of up to 190 kilometres per hour (118 miles per hour).
That would make it the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in Mozambique since Tropical Cyclone Eline which struck the country in February 2000, claiming at least 800 lives.
Another storm in 2015 left more than 100 people dead.
Mozambique is prone to extreme weather events and as the storm approached, the coastal city of Beira was hit by winds of more than 170 kph, the National Meteorological Institute said, with Radio Mocambique reporting several homes had been destroyed and roads cut off.
Late on Wednesday, Mozambique’s national carrier LAM said it was cancelling all flights to Beira and Quelimane, which is also on the coast, as well as to Chomoio, which is inland.
But many passengers were unaware of the cancellations, leaving hundreds stranded at Maputo International Airport.
The UN warned that cyclone Idai would bring strong winds, heavy rains and storm surges which would likely last through the weekend.
„Substantial devastation with massive flooding both from river and sea is expected” when Idai makes landfall, South African charity Gift of the Givers said, indicating it was ready to deploy 70 rescue staff, along with 4×4 vehicles, boats, and jetskis to help with rescue efforts.