It has a slightly terrifying name, and it arrived in the central U.S. yesterday — the bomb cyclone.

The storm system, described by the National Weather Service (NWS) as “historic” and “incredible,” brought high winds, rain, and snow to a huge swath of the country, including the Rocky Mountains, the Plains, the Mississippi Valley, and the Great Lakes region.

The storm is caused by bombogenesis, which occurs when a midlatitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours (a millibar measures atmospheric pressure). This can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters, according to NOAA.

In Colorado, the storm turned deadly when a State Patrol corporal was struck and killed by a vehicle while he was outside helping a car that slid off of Interstate 76 in Weld County, Colorado, AccuWeather reported.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency on Wednesday and activated the Colorado National Guard to assist with search, rescue and safety operations.

“This is about as bad as I’ve ever been in … as I’ve been in winter-wise in the 27 years at The Weather Channel,” meteorologist Mike Seidel said during a live report from near the Denver airport. “I’m trying to run back every snow storm I’ve ever been in with a lot of wind. And I can think of maybe the Duluth Blizzard that was on Feb 29, 2012, and … this is right up there with that as far as the wind. That had heavier snowfall though.”

According to, the storm continued to hammer parts of Nebraska and the Dakotas Thursday with heavy snow and blasting winds with gusts that limited visibility across the region. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts also issued a state of emergency on Tuesday.

In all, the bomb cycline forced the closure of interstates in six states, stranded hundreds of vehicles, and led to two deaths.

Among the stranded were about 200 vehicles along Interstate 25 near Colorado Springs, according to the Associated Press.About 100 vehicles were stranded along a 7-mile stretch of Colorado State Highway 86.

Scientists are still studying how bomb cyclones in recent years are, or aren’t, affected by the larger trend of global climate change. Sea surface temperatures, which have been rising, affect the intensity of storms and greenhouse gases have been found to disrupt the jet stream, a powerful river of winds that steers weather systems in the Northern Hemisphere, according to Inside Climate News.

But climate scientist Jonathan Martin of the University of Wisconsin-Madison told NPR, “There isn’t a direct link between the slowly changing climate and this event.”

Although this storm is unusually intense, “these things come around every few years,” he said.

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