Rare Blizzard Meteorologists Are Calling 'Bomb Cyclone' Hits Central U.S.

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A major winter storm is hitting the Mountain West and moving into the Midwest. In the Denver metro area alone, about 200,000 people are without power, and a major interstate remains closed. Colorado Public Radio's Dan Boyce reports on the rare blizzard meteorologists are calling a bomb cyclone.

DAN BOYCE, BYLINE: This name, bomb cyclone, stems from the intensity of this particular storm system where a rapid drop in air pressure leads to very high winds along with heavy precipitation. Though starting out in the morning along Colorado's Front Range, the weather system seemed more like intense spring showers.

I'm standing in the rain outside a Walmart in Colorado Springs. I've already seen some people joke on social media this morning about being glad they have out their rain shovels.

Yet several people are walking out of the store with new snow shovels, including Lainie Fike. Early this morning, she didn't think the storm seemed all that bad until she drove up to her job in the nearby mountains.

LAINIE FIKE: And it was crazy, just heavy snow everywhere. And so I booked it down here so I didn't have to drive through the pass when it was horrible.

BOYCE: And now she's heading home.

FIKE: Yep, got a toy for the cat, got some pizzas. I'm going to stay in after this.

BOYCE: Of course, what's unsettling about the rain is as the temperature drops throughout the day, the rain turns to snow, and what's already fallen becomes ice, which National Weather Service meteorologist Kari Bowen says compounds the danger.

KARI BOWEN: It creates that level of icy slickness beneath the snow that can create hazardous conditions for people that might go walking on the snow or something, that they might slide on their vehicles when you have that snow on top of ice.

BOYCE: The wind is also treacherous. Gusts reaching 75 miles per hour are being recorded at Denver International Airport where by midday, all runways had been shut down. The storm is also causing other shutdowns and delays as well. Schools and government offices in Denver and Colorado Springs are closed. Normally jam-packed Interstate 25 between Colorado Springs and Denver is shut down as are many other roads in the region. Bowen's Weather Service office in Boulder tweeted the blizzard is the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane. And in all caps - do not even attempt to drive in this storm - exclamation point.

BOWEN: It's a quick-hitting storm, but it's going to be pretty impactful when it is here.

BOYCE: Bowen says the snowfall in Colorado will begin to lessen overnight, but it's moving east, pushing out of Colorado into Kansas and deeper into the Midwest. For NPR News, I'm Dan Boyce in Colorado Springs Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.