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Winter weather forecast: Bizzards; damaging winds, hail

An intense storm that triggered a powerful “bomb cyclone” in Colorado will bring more blizzard conditions from the northern Plains to Minnesota on Thursday and spread the threat of damaging winds along a corridor from western Ohio to northern Alabama.

The Storm Prediction center warned of an enhanced risk of severe weather — including damaging winds, hail and tornadoes — for an area that includes Huntsville, Ala., Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

The mid-March storm will douse the first hints of spring temperatures in many areas as it moves east.

The National Weather Service forecast blizzard conditions Thursday over northeast
Colorado, eastern Wyoming, most of Nebraska, South Dakota, eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. 

“Travel will remain difficult and life threatening across these areas,” the weather service warned.

The storm, which blasted a mix of snow, rain and wind across the central United States on Wednesday, was blamed for a crash that killed a Colorado State Patrol trooper.

In Colorado on Wednesday, National Guard troops used specialized vehicles to rescue drivers stranded by the wintry fury.

More than 1,300 flights were canceled at Denver International Airport, where a wind gust of 80 mph was reported Wednesday morning. All runways at the airport were closed around early afternoon.

About 3,000 flights were canceled across the nation, according to flightaware.com. 

Late Wednesday, about 111,000 Denver-area residents were without power, down from 246,000 in the afternoon. Interstates were shut down, most schools were closed and many businesses declared a snow day. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency in the evening, activating the state national guard for search and rescue missions. 

Earlier in the day, Cpl. Daniel Groves was killed on Interstate 76 after a driver lost control of his vehicle in the storm and hit him. Groves had been helping another driver who slid off the highway, the state patrol said. 

In addition to road closures in Colorado and Wyoming, the Nebraska State Patrol closed Interstate 80 from the Wyoming border east to North Platte, as well as all state highways in the Nebraska Panhandle. Officials ordered flood evacuations in areas including Cedar Rapids and Belgrade, The Omaha World-Herald reported, as well as low-lying parts of Randolph and Pierce. 

“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.”

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After a rainy early morning in Denver, conditions deteriorated rapidly, and by 11 a.m., most roads were snow-covered and flakes were whipping in the wind.

By noon, the fierce storm was rattling signs and rocking cars. Roads become treacherous, and two-wheel-drive sedans struggled to climb up anything resembling a hill, their tires spinning fruitlessly. 

“They predicted a blizzard, and that’s what we’re having,” said server Rindi Gray, 48, as she took a break from shoveling the sidewalk outside My Brother’s Bar, which boasts some of Denver’s best cheeseburgers but expected to close early because of the storm. 

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Whether you call it a “snow hurricane” or “bombogenesis,” this storm packs a punch worthy of its namesake.
USA TODAY

More: What is a bomb cyclone? Winter hurricane explained.

More: Blizzard warning: Airlines cancel 1,200 flights, waive fees

More: Tornadoes cause damage in south; no injuries reported

More: Check your weather forecast

Across the city, workers struggled in vain to keep sidewalks and walkways clear. Wrapped in a plastic poncho flapping loudly in the wind, Matt Krueger, 36, pushed snow off a sidewalk while more blew in right behind him.

“They told us to clear a path, but it’s just gonna get snowed over again,” he sighed.

Bomb cyclones – sometimes called winter hurricanes – are storms that strengthen unusually fast. 

“You risk becoming stranded if you attempt to travel through these conditions,” it said.

Contributing: The Associated Press.Stanglin and Rice reported from McLean, Virginia; Trevor Hughes from Denver.

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