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The Latest: High winds barrel into South Dakota

March 14, 2019
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Greg Giannini needed to get gas for his generator, because the lights were flickering at his home and he was afraid he was going to lose power. Even though he has four wheel drive, his car got stuck at the pumps and he was trying to dig out to get home as the blizzard swirled around him. He was stuck near North Gate Blvd. in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)

DENVER (AP) — The Latest on a winter storm hitting the West and Midwest (all times local):

6:40 p.m.

Winds gusting to more than 60 mph (96 kph) howled through the Rapid City area as a late winter storm slammed western South Dakota.

The National Weather Service reports a gust of 63 mph (101 kilometers per hour) was recorded Wednesday at Rapid City Regional Airport.

The airport was closed because of the approaching storm.

The high winds came as people in southeastern South Dakota are dealing with rain and flooded roads.

The sanitary sewer system in Sioux Falls is experiencing above-normal flows. Officials are asking residents to limit water usage through Friday evening to allow the system to catch up.

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5:35 p.m.

The hundreds of motorists stranded on Colorado roadways by a blizzard included a Colorado Springs woman who became stuck in her car for two hours with her mother, brother and sister as they were trying to return home from a doctor’s appointment.

Bria McKenzie says the snow was so blinding and numbing, and the wind was whipping so hard, that she didn’t feel safe to walk to a hospital a short distance from where they were stranded Wednesday afternoon.

The 22-year-old McKenzie says other cars also became stuck on the hilly road, until the line of vehicles disappeared from view into the blizzard.

McKenzie says they were eventually rescued by her father in his pickup truck, and it took him another 20 minutes to drive to their home less than a mile away.

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4:45 p.m.

A Colorado state patrol officer who was hit by a car during a winter storm while responding to an accident has died.

The Colorado State Patrol says Corporal Daniel Groves was outside his patrol car along Interstate 76 northeast of Denver on Wednesday when a driver lost control and hit him.

Officials say Groves was helping another driver who had slid off the highway.

The State Patrol said Groves was taken to a hospital but died there of his injuries.

Groves was 52 and had worked for the agency for nearly 12 years.

The crash is being investigated. The statement said high speed in poor driving conditions may be a factor.

Colorado’s governor has declared a state of emergency in response to the storm.

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4:30 p.m.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has declared a state of emergency and activated the Colorado National Guard to help in search and rescue operations.

Polis spokeswoman Shelby Weiman said Wednesday the state Emergency Operations Center and the Department of Transportation are working with local counties “to prioritize the most immediate needs for those resources.”

Amy Ford, a spokeswoman for the state transportation department, says dozens of drivers were stranded on Colorado highways, and numerous accidents were reported on roads that included interstates 25 and 70.

Colorado Springs officials say hundreds of vehicles were stranded in the city and surrounding El Paso County, and it would take several hours for responders to reach them all.

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3:35 p.m.

Meteorologists say the storm raging across the West and Midwest was caused by a sudden and severe drop in air pressure called a “bomb cyclone” or “bombogenesis.”

Low air pressure is how meteorologists measure the strength of a storm, and this is the strongest in Colorado since at least 1950.

Pressure readings are similar to what’s seen in Category 2 hurricanes.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com said it’s very rare.

Maue says forecasters have been warning about the storm for days, but some people underestimated it and wound up stranded.

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3:10 p.m.

Truck stops in eastern Wyoming have turned into refuges for motorists because of a blizzard that has shut down two key highways.

In Cheyenne, about 60 trucks were stranded at the Sapp Brothers Travel Center along Interstate 80 and an estimated 120 were at the Love’s Travel Stop off Interstate 25.

A 280-mile (451-kilometer) stretch of I-80 was closed from the small city Rock Springs to the Nebraska state line. And a 300-mile (483-kilometer) section of I-25 was closed from the small city of Buffalo to the Colorado border.

The blizzard began Wednesday morning and was expected to continue through Wednesday night. It prompted the closures of schools, government offices, a university and the Cheyenne Veteran Affairs Medical Center and its clinics.

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2:35 p.m.

Authorities blamed high winds for a train derailment in eastern New Mexico where approximately 25 freight cars went off a trestle over a mostly dry river bed.

The New Mexico State Police said no injuries resulted from the wreck Wednesday near Logan, about 184 miles (296 kilometers) east of Albuquerque.

State Police photos posted on Twitter showed shipping containers strewn across the river bed, with a jumbled pile of containers on the slope above one bank of the Canadian River.

Union Pacific spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said the derailed cars were the tail end of a mixed-freight train consisting of two locomotives and 73 rail cars.

A high wind warning issued earlier by the National Weather Service said the storm moving through the area would produce “one of the strongest wind events in years for West Texas and southeast New Mexico.”

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1:30 p.m.

The Nebraska State Patrol has closed Interstate 80 from the Wyoming border east to North Platte as well as all state highways in the Nebraska Panhandle as a late-winter blizzard swept into the state.

The patrol advised motorists on Wednesday not to travel.

The closures came as officials also warned of flooding in the eastern part of the state.

The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for parts of Wyoming and western to central Nebraska north into South Dakota.

The service says blizzard conditions will continue through Thursday afternoon.

Snow accumulation of 10 to 22 inches (25 to 56 centimeters) is expected, with higher amounts further north. Winds gusting as high as 65 mph (105 kph) also were forecast.

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11:40 a.m.

Some of Colorado’s busiest highways are closed as a raging storm brings heavy snow to a wide swath of the West and Midwest.

Many schools and state offices were shut down Wednesday amid a blizzard expected to engulf parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota.

In Colorado, 22 miles (35 kilometers) of Interstate 25 near the Wyoming border was closed, and 66 miles (105 kilometers) of Interstate 70 was closed to westbound traffic.

The two highways are the state’s busiest north-south and east-west routes, crossing in Denver.

Vehicles were required to have chains to cross several mountain passes in Colorado.

Three major entrances to Rocky Mountain National Park were also closed.

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9:55 a.m.

Hundreds of miles of interstate highway in Wyoming have closed because of a raging late winter storm bringing heavy snow to the eastern and southern parts of the state.

A 250-mile (402-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 80 from Cheyenne to Rock Springs is closed, along with a 110-mile (177-kilometer) section of I-25 from Casper to Buffalo.

Heavy snow hit Cheyenne about midmorning Wednesday and was spreading into Colorado and Nebraska.

About 1,000 flights into Denver have been canceled as a winter storm hits the western U.S., with blizzard conditions expected to engulf parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota.

School was canceled Wednesday in many places where up to more than a foot (30 centimeters) of snow and winds as high as 80 mph (129 kph) was possible.

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8:34 a.m.

About 1,000 flights into Denver have been canceled as a winter storm hits the western U.S., with blizzard conditions expected to engulf parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota.

School was canceled Wednesday in many places where up to more than a foot (30 centimeters) of snow and winds as high as 80 mph (129 kph) was possible.

State and local government workers in Denver and Wyoming were told to stay home and many colleges also closed for the day.

Parts of Interstates 80 and 25 were closed in Wyoming because of heavy snow and whiteout conditions.

Heavy snow was falling in northern Arizona and forecasters say dangerous winds in New Mexico are expected to make travel hazardous across much of the state.

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