Spring blizzard pummeling several Rockies and Plains states

A spring blizzard blasting some Rockies and Plains states early Thursday was already out-doing ominous forecasts in some spots — and was just getting started. Driving was extremely hazardous and many major highways were closed.

It was the second major weather system to hit the region in less than a month. The first was a “bomb cyclone,” in which barometric pressure drops rapidly and a storm strengthens explosively.

This one had’t met the scientific criteria of a bomb cyclone, but was a storm to be reckoned with by any definition, according to CBS News weather producer David Parkinson.

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He said the blizzard was starting to kick into high gear and was already “over-performing” in some spots.

Gusts of 68 mph were recorded in Pueblo Colorado and there were 51 mph gusts in Nebraska.

Western South Dakota already had a-foot-and-a-half of fresh snow on the ground and the eastern part of the state was closing in on more than a foot. South Dakota could expect gusts in the 50-60 mph range Thursday, Parkinson said.

The snow was expected to continue well into Friday.

“I think there will certainly be some spots in the state that end up over 2 feet but a foot to a foot-and-a-half is a good benchmark for most” areas of South Dakota.

Northern Nebraska “may also get a jackpot of snow,” Parkinson noted.

The western half of Minnesota looked primed to get in the foot-to-foot-and-a-half range. Minneapolis was expected to wind with about 8 inches, since it was likely to get a wintry mix during part of the day Thursday.

In the southwestern corner of Minnesota and southeastern South Dakota, dangerous icing seemed to be in the offing. A warning was in effect for up to an inch of ice. That would certainly make power outages likely and driving next to impossible.

For all the states impacted, driving was expected to be exceptionally difficult all day Thursday and into the night.

The Minnesota State Patrol reported hundreds of crashes and spin-outs Wednesday alone.

The bomb cyclone was followed by historic flooding in many places and Parkinson said flooding was exceedingly likely in the Plains states early next week as the new snow melts.

“There is a good two-to-four inches of moisture locked up in the snow and for some rivers that are already still over there banks,  that is certainly enough to push them higher as we get in the later half of the week,” Parkinson said. “Temperatures will rebound this weekend, so the melting should happen fairly quickly.”

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