'Bomb cyclone' for the 'history books' barrels down Midwest, 1 person killed

(NWS Chicago)

Winds gusting at nearly 100 mph howled across the Midwest in a late-season “bomb cyclone” Wednesday that left countless vehicles stranded, triggered widespread power outages and grounded hundreds of flights – and there is potential for things to get worse.

The National Weather Service said Thursday the “intense” storm will continue to affect portions of the Central to Northern Plains with blizzard conditions in some areas. The NWS said while the storm will gradually weaken over the next few days, strong winds will continue before “a taste of spring temperatures” will be felt sometime Friday.

There is also a potential for tornadoes, flash flooding and heavy snow from this “historic blizzard,” said Fox News Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean.

“It dropped 23 millibars in 24 hours – that is a ‘bombgenesis’ my friends. A big deal,” she said on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday.

A millibar is the measurement of atmospheric pressure, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


South Dakota's governor closed all state offices Thursday as the blizzard conditions moved in, while wind, blowing snow and snow-packed roadways also made travel treacherous in western Nebraska. Heavy rain caused flooding in eastern parts of both states and in Iowa.

“This is a very epic cyclone,” said Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center. “We’re looking at something that will go down in the history books.”

The storm caused havoc on roadways as drivers became overwhelmed by blinding snow, stranding hundreds. In Colorado, National Guard troops using specialized vehicles with tank-like treads were deployed to rescue stranded drivers.

One death has been attributed to the storm. Corporal Daniel Groves, a Colorado State Patrol officer, was hit and killed by a car as he helped another driver who slid off Interstate 79 near Denver.

“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.”

Bria McKenzie, 22, who with her mother, brother and sister, was stuck in her car for more than two hours on a hilly road in Colorado Springs. She said the snow was so blinding and numbing, and the wind was whipping so hard, she didn’t feel safe walking to a hospital that was just down the road.

“It was just like every second you were out there, it felt like parts of you were just freezing,” she said.

McKenzie and her family were eventually rescued by her father in his pickup.

The late winter storm was caused by a sudden and severe drop in ground-level air pressure in Colorado -- the most pronounced dive since 1950, Carbin said. 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.

“It’s like a vacuum cleaner, really,” Carbin said.

More on FoxNews.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.