Thousands of Coloradans awoke in the dark on Thursday due to a massive Winter storm that is pounding the very center of the United States. It has knocked down power lines, grounded flights and literally buried highways in snow. There are as many as 74 million people who are expected to face severe weather through Friday.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency Wednesday and tweeted that the National Guard had been activated to assist in search and rescue and other operations.
State authorities said 1,100 motorists were “stuck and stranded” in “treacherous conditions” on roads in Colorado’s El Paso County. Sheriff Bill Elder also said that search and rescue operations would continue through the night. His advice was to “STAY HOME.”
There were approximately 86,000 customers in Colorado who were without electricity early Thursday, according to Xcel Energy. Another 47,000 had no power in New Mexico and northern Texas.
The storm is known as a bomb cyclone — according to The Denver Post, a term used when a storm drops 24 millibars, or units of atmospheric pressure, in 24 hours or less, according to weather.com.
At this point there is one death from the weather. A Colorado State Patrol officer, Cpl. Daniel Groves, 52, was killed Wednesday after he was struck by a vehicle on Interstate 76 while responding to another vehicle that slid off the road.
The patrol said in a statement that “high speed in poor driving conditions is being investigated as a possible causal factor,” but the incident was under investigation and no charges have been filed.
Blizzard warnings stretched on a large swath of the central U.S., from eastern Colorado and Wyoming, portions of Nebraska and large parts of the Dakotas and into western Minnesota as of Wednesday night, while eastern Nebraska, southeastern South Dakota and parts of Iowa were under flood warnings.
The Nebraska Department of Transportation warned that residents could face flooding and blizzard conditions into Thursday.
In Texas, Dallas-Fort Worth recorded gusts of wind between 75 mph and 78 mph early Wednesday.
And in Tennessee and parts of Mississippi, as much as 4 inches of rain could fall through Friday.