LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) – National Guard soldiers have been using specialized vehicles with tank-like treads to rescue stranded drivers in Colorado following a major late-morning storm. winter Thursday.
Wednesday's snowstorm caused numerous power outages, the forced cancellation of hundreds of flights and extensive damage to the roads. The drivers were submerged by the blinding snow. A gust of wind reached 156 km / h in Colorado Springs.
The storm also contributed to the death of Corporal Daniel Groves, an officer of the Colorado State Patrol who was hit by a car while he was helping another driver who had slipped from the car. Interstate 76 near Denver.
"It's 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 road."
Lew warned drivers that conditions would remain precarious at least until Thursday.
Stuck in his car for more than two hours
About 200 vehicles were shut off on Interstate 25 near Colorado Springs, and many more drivers were rescued on secondary roads, said Kyle Lester of the Department's Highway Maintenance Division. transports.
Bria McKenzie, 22, was one of the drivers stranded. With her mother, brother and sister, she was stuck in her car for over two hours on a hilly Colorado Springs road. She said the snow was so blinding and numb and the wind was blowing so hard that she did not feel safe to get to the hospital just down the road.
"It was like every second you were in, it felt like part of you was freezing," she said.
McKenzie and his family were eventually saved by his father during his abduction.
The storm caused snowstorms, floods and a tornado in more than 25 states Wednesday, extending from the northern Rockies to Texas and beyond.
"This is a very epic cyclone," said Greg Carbin, forecasting officer at the Weather Prediction Center of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. "We are looking for something that will stay in the history books."
Many motorists fled to truck stops in eastern Wyoming, while blowing snow forced the closure of some of the major highways of Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota. Meanwhile, hundreds of flights have been canceled at the Denver International Airport and nearly 40 have been stranded in Colorado Springs.
The windblown storm has forced schools and government offices across the state to close for the day and cut electricity off of several hundred thousand homes and businesses. Xcel Energy spokesman Mark Stutz said the lack of visibility made the conditions difficult for repairers and that it might take days to restore power to everyone.
The culprit was a sudden and severe drop in ground-level air pressure in Colorado, the most pronounced dive since 1950, said Carbin. This was caused by the combination of the jet stream and normal conditions in the shadow of the Rocky Mountain wind.
The air rushed into the low pressure zone and then returned to the atmosphere.
"It's like a vacuum cleaner, really," Carbin said. When this amount of air rushes higher into the atmosphere, the weather conditions are difficult.
Meteorologists describe the rapid change of pressure as a "cyclone bomb" or "bombogenesis".
Torn roofs of buildings
Parts of seven states were under blizzard warnings and 20 states were under a high wind alert, Carbin said.
A tornado in New Mexico tore up the roofs of buildings in the small town of Dexter, about 320 km southwest of Albuquerque. Authorities said five people were injured, but none of these injuries put their lives at risk. A dairy euthanized about 150 cows injured by the tornado.
Chaves County Sheriff Mike Herrington said the tornado "took away" about 10 homes on a street.
Heavy winds dropped 25 freight cars from a bridge into a near-dry riverbed near Logan in northeastern New Mexico. No one was injured, police said the state of New Mexico.