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Satellite image showing the comma-shaped cloud pattern associated with the intensifying storm over the Plains. Image: CIRA/RAMMB/NOAA.

A powerful storm the National Weather Service says is "of historic proportions" stranded hundreds of people and left thousands without power Wednesday night after it intensified into a raging blizzard across the Plains. It brought with it hurricane-force wind gusts, widespread flooding and white-out conditions to multiple states from Colorado to the Dakotas.

Why it matters: This storm's strength and rate of intensification is unusual for the Plains states, with low pressure records likely to be challenged or broken in multiple locations. In general, the lower the air pressure, the stronger the storm.

The minimal central pressure may hit the low 970s or upper 960s millibars Wednesday when it peaks in eastern Colorado or western Kansas, threatening March and all-time state records. So far, the minimum pressure of 971 millibars recorded in Colorado would be a new state record if it is confirmed.

  • The storm brought air and road travel to a screeching halt from Dallas to North Dakota, with blizzard conditions and winds gusting upwards of 80 mph forecast for a vast stretch of real estate.
  • Xcel Energy said about 10 p.m. 121,270 customers remained without power in Colorado after 2,214 separate outages, according to The Denver Post.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
  • Major airline hubs, including Denver, Dallas and Chicago, felt impacts from this storm, leading to delays and cancellations. In Denver, visibility was reduced to essentially zero in heavy snow along with winds gusting to 75 mph, effectively shutting down the airport.
  • At least one person has died in an incident related to the storm. Colorado State Patrol trooper died during a blizzard after being hit by a car while helping another driver whose car had slid off Interstate 76 near Denver.

The big picture: This particular storm has intensified so rapidly that it qualifies as a "bomb cyclone," a non-technical moniker applied to storms that undergo a process known as bombogenesis, through which their minimum central air pressure drops by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.

  • Typically, rapidly deepening, non-tropical storms such as this tend to occur over oceans, where the contrast between air masses and availability of moisture is maximized.
  • That, plus how low the air pressure is forecast to go, is what makes this one unique.
  • It's the result of the combination of two jet stream disturbances into one, as detailed by meteorologist Philippe Papin on Twitter.

At least one all-time low pressure record was set Wednesday, in Pueblo, Colorado.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

The impact: The Denver metro area was deep in snow after being hit by a severe a blizzard and strong winds on Wednesday afternoon. The ferocity of storm had eased by Wednesday night. East of there, in the Colorado Plains, winds were stronger, with snowfall of a foot or more.

  • Portions of I-25, I-70 and other roadways in Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska were closed due to the combination of wind, snow and low visibility. Heavy snow, with snowfall rates of greater than 2 inches per hour at times, fell in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, with heavy snow forecast to spread to North and South Dakota as the evening goes on.
  • The winds have been ferocious, with a gust to 97 mph clocked in Colorado Springs, and an 80-mph gust at Denver International Airport. Widespread high winds have also caused damage in northern Texas.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

There's also a wet side to this storm, which caused problems in many regions.

  • The storm has dumped heavy rain on top of a deep snowpack across the Midwest and Upper Midwest, leading to a threat of severe river flooding, ice jams and roof collapses from the weight of water-laden snow.
  • The National Weather Service said late Wednesday widespread flooding had been reported in eastern Nebraska, which would continue through the night. Significant flooding impacts were likely in parts of eastern South Dakota, southwest Minnesota
    and northwest Iowa, the forecaster said.
  • Severe thunderstorms, including possible tornadoes, exist where the low pressure area is drawing warm air from the Gulf of Mexico, threatening Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, in particular, on Wednesday afternoon.
  • Early in the day a squall line moved through Texas, bringing 80-mph wind gusts to the Dallas metro region.

What's next: By Thursday, the storm was moving northward into Canada and weaken, leaving floodwaters, wind damage and extensive snow cover in its wake.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk — Fauci says Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S. — U.S. restricts air travel from 8 countries over Omicron concerns.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.