By Keith Coffman, Reuters/ Denver
A blizzard of “historic proportions” that hit the US Rocky Mountain and Plains states this week was moving eastward yesterday as it weakened, hurling hurricane-force winds, tornadoes and heavy rain on its way, weather officials said.
“While the storm has reached its lowest pressure and will gradually weaken over the next few days, strong winds will continue on the west side of the storm across portions of the Central and Northern Plains,” Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS), said yesterday in a weather advisory.
A day earlier, the NWS had described the blizzard — previously dubbed a “bomb cyclone” by US meteorologists for its quick, late season punch — as being of “historic proportions” in a post on Twitter.
Hurricane-force winds involve frequent gusts or sustained winds of more than 120kph. The blizzard, bringing severe snowfall, poor visibility and powerful winds, caused hundreds of flight cancellations and thousands of power outages in Colorado and Texas.
It was expected to unleash similar conditions over areas in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota before moving into northwest Minnesota, Oravec said.
A state of emergency was still in effect in Colorado as cities and towns dug out from the storm, during which strong, 110kph wind gusts pushed tractor trailers sidewise and left up to two feet of snow in some areas.
In parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, tornado watches were issued until yesterday afternoon. Tornado warnings were also issued in parts of Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.
An AccuWeather meteorologist said yesterday on Twitter that at least one tornado had formed near Evansville, Indiana.
The storm also caused flash flooding across the Plains and Midwest states, the NWS reported.
Residents in Norfolk, Nebraska, were issued evacuation orders on Wednesday after the Spencer Dam at the Niobrara River was reported to have failed, according to the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper.
Some flights resumed yesterday at Denver International Airport and flight cancellations were down to more than 600 yesterday, from more than 1,300 in the region a day earlier, according to FlightAware.com.
Power outages in Colorado affected about 80,000 homes and businesses, down by 8,000. About 60,000 in Texas also experienced outages yesterday morning. The storm was blamed for the death of a Colorado state trooper, who was hit by a car that slid on ice on the highway as he was attending to a car wreck. Schools and government offices remained closed yesterday across the region.
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