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National Guard carries out highway rescues after monster winter storm unloads blizzard conditions, turns deadly

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
March 15, 2019, 2:54:39 AM EDT


A monster winter storm that slammed the Rockies and central Plains contributed to the deaths of a Colorado State Patrol corporal and a Texas lineman on Wednesday, officials report.

The 'bomb cyclone' packed blizzard conditions, hurricane-force wind gusts, and hazardous travel.

Motorists on I-25 in Colorado were still stranded on Thursday after a monster winter storm brought blizzard conditions to the Rockies and Central Plains on Wednesday. (Douglas County Sheriff's Office)

Motorists on I-25 in Colorado were still stranded on Thursday after a monster winter storm brought blizzard conditions to the Rockies and Central Plains on Wednesday. (Douglas County Sheriff's Office)

(Photo/Nebraska State Patrol)

Utility workers fight to fix a downed utility pole in Alliance, Neb. Power issues are expected to continue as weather conditions worsen.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A string of wrecked vehicles sit on an overpass over Interstate 70 as a late winter storm packing hurricane-force winds and snow sweeps over the intermountain West in Aurora, Colo.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Trees snapped by high winds from a late winter storm packing hurricane-force winds and snow cover the Eugene Field house in Washington Park in Denver.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Shoppers struggle to make their ways back to the vehicles outside a grocery store as a late winter storm packing hurricane-force winds and snow sweeps over the intermountain West March 13, 2019, in Denver.

(CSP Public Affairs)

Colorado State Patrol Corporal Dan Groves, 52, was killed on I-76 Wednesday while he was responding to a vehicle that had slid off the road and another driver lost control a vehicle and fatally struck Groves on the side of the road.

(Image via Reed Timmer)

A stretch of I-80 in Nebraska was closed Wednesday due to blizzard conditions.

(Photo/NOAA)

The bomb cyclone over the central United States on Wednesday afternoon.

(Photo/Douglas County Colorado Sheriff)

Highway 85 was closed in Douglas County, Colorado, at Manhart due to a jack-knifed semi.

(Photo/garyjugert)

Denver, Colo. experiencing whiteout conditions.

(Photo/garyjugert)

Denver, Colo. experiencing whiteout conditions.

(Photo/@Thatguy_fromKC)

Traffic was stopped on Interstate 70 in Colorado for over two hours on Wednesday.

(Photo/Reed Timmer)

Icy road conditions in Kimball, Nebraska.

(Photo/Reed Timmer)

Blizzard blasting Kimball, Nebraska with snow.

(Photo/West Metro Fire Department)

Fire officials said powerful winds blew the chimney off this home in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, littering the roof with bricks. Some places in Colorado saw wind gusts of nearly 100 mph.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Drivers take their chances on flooded highway 92, as the Cottonwood and Wahoo creeks overflow their banks, in Wahoo, Neb.

(Twitter photo/Nebraska State Patrol)

Flooding is affecting numerous communities in northeast Nebraska.

(Twitter photo/Nebraska State Patrol)

There are many road closures in northeast Nebraska because of flooding.

(Twitter photo/Nebraska State Patrol)

Flooding is affecting numerous communities in northeast Nebraska.

Colorado State Patrol Troop 4C

Tow operators prepare to a tractor-trailer out of a snowy ditch.

Colorado Springs Police Department

Although road conditions are improving, some abandoned vehicles remain off to the side.

Motorists on I-25 in Colorado were still stranded on Thursday after a monster winter storm brought blizzard conditions to the Rockies and Central Plains on Wednesday. (Douglas County Sheriff's Office)

Motorists on I-25 in Colorado were still stranded on Thursday after a monster winter storm brought blizzard conditions to the Rockies and Central Plains on Wednesday. (Douglas County Sheriff's Office)

Motorists on I-25 in Colorado were still stranded on Thursday after a monster winter storm brought blizzard conditions to the Rockies and Central Plains on Wednesday. (Douglas County Sheriff's Office)


The storm turned deadly when a Colorado State Patrol corporal was struck and killed by a vehicle while he was outside helping a car that slid off of Interstate 76 in Weld County, Colorado.

A Volvo lost control and ran into Corporal Daniel Groves, 52. Corporal Groves, a veteran of nearly 12 years for the State Patrol, was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said on Twitter that Groves will be remembered as a hero.

Xcel Energy confirmed the death of a lineman during the wind storm recovery efforts near Hereford, Texas, local Texas news station KCBD reports.

The incident reportedly happened around 8:30 p.m. local time. No other details were given regarding the death.

The National Weather Service deemed the storm a "cyclone of historic proportions."

As the blizzard developed, heavy snow lashed northern Colorado, including Denver, western Nebraska, eastern Wyoming, central South Dakota, and southeastern North Dakota.

Gov. Polis declared a state of emergency on Wednesday and activated the Colorado National Guard to assist with search, rescue and safety operations. Nebraska Gov Pete Ricketts issued a state of emergency on Tuesday.


Hundreds of motorists were stranded around the Colorado Springs area and surrounding interstates. The Associated Press reported that numerous accidents occurred on interstates 25 and 70 in Colorado.

Many roads remained closed in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota and Iowa on Thursday morning due to snow and flooding. This includes stretches of I-80 and I-70.

The storm strengthened over the High Plains on Wednesday with the rate of intensification resulting in bombogenesis, which occurs when the barometric pressure rapidly plummets, crashing more than the 0.71 of an inch threshold in a 24-hour period. The rare weather phenomenon is often referred to as a "bomb cyclone."

National Weather Service (NWS) offices logged roughly 350 wind gusts reports of 50 mph or more during a 24-hour period.

Some locations were hit with hurricane-force wind gusts. The NWS has received more than 92 reports of damage.

Wind gusts near 100 mph occurred with the snow in Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said.

A 103-mph wind gust was reported at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.


Airlines canceled almost 2,000 flights and delayed another 2,700 due to the wind and severe weather.

"The powerful winds also led to structural damage, widespread tree damage, power outages and difficult driving conditions," Samuhel said.

A portion of the above corridor was expected to receive 12-18 inches of snow with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 26 inches possible in some places by the time the storm is finished. Indeed, some places in Colorado reported more than a foot of snowfall by late afternoon, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

"Snowfall totals so far are as high as 16 inches in the mountains of Colorado, with 7.1 inches reported in Denver and about 4 in the Boulder area. Many schools, including those in the Denver area, have already been canceled for Thursday," AccuWeather Meteorologist Faith Eherts said.

The storm also tangled with barometric pressure records across the southwest and middle of the nation. According to preliminary NWS data, Colorado and New Mexico broke all-time low barometric pressure records on Wednesday.

The old records stood at 28.82 inches of Mercury (975.8 millibars) in La Junta, Colorado, in 1973, and 28.90 inches of Mercury (978.7 millibars) in Clayton, New Mexico.

A reading of 28.78 inches of mercury (974.6 millibars) was recorded Wednesday at the Dodge City Regional Airport in Kansas, breaking the previous record of 974.9 millibars, which was set in 1960. Additionally, the NWS office in Dodge City reports that it was the lowest barometric pressure since 1900 due to erroneous data back in the 1870s and 1880s.

The NWS office confirmed on Thursday that the state's overall record of 28.67 inches of mercury (971.2 millibars) remains intact.

RELATED:
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