'Bomb cyclone' storm barrels toward Midwest


LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) — National Guard troops used specialized vehicles with tank-like treads to rescue stranded drivers in Colorado in the wake of a massive late-winter storm that unleashed heavy rain and snow on parts of the Midwest plains early today.

South Dakota's governor closed all state offices as the blizzard conditions moved in, while wind, blowing snow and snow-packed roadways also made travel treacherous in western Nebraska. Heavy rain caused flooding in eastern parts of both states and in Iowa.

Wednesday's blizzard in Colorado caused widespread power outages, forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights and wreaked havoc on roadways as drivers became overwhelmed by blinding snow. A wind gust clocked in at 97 mph in Colorado Springs.

The storm also contributed to the death of Cpl. Daniel Groves, a Colorado State Patrol officer who was hit and killed by a car as he helped another driver who had slid off Interstate 76 near Denver.

"It is 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 roads."

Lew warned drivers that conditions would remain precarious at least through Thursday.

About 200 vehicles were disabled on Interstate 25 near Colorado Springs, and many more drivers were being rescued on secondary roads, said Kyle Lester with the transportation department's Division of Highway Maintenance.

One of the stranded drivers was Bria McKenzie, 22, who with her mother, brother and sister, was stuck in her car for more than two hours on a hilly road in Colorado Springs. She said the snow was so blinding and numbing, and the wind was whipping so hard, she didn't feel safe walking to a hospital that was just down the road.

"It was just like every second you were out there, it felt like parts of you were just freezing," she said.

McKenzie and her family were eventually rescued by her father in his pickup.

The window-rattling storm brought blizzards, floods and a tornado across more than 25 states Wednesday, stretching from the northern Rocky Mountains to Texas and beyond.

"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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