Bomb cyclone expected to hit U.S. Rockies

This could be the second consecutive inland bomb cyclone to hit the region

Flood, snow, avalanche and fire alerts popped up Monday from Idaho to Colorado, as parts of the U.S. interior that were paralyzed by blizzards and floods last month braced for round two of an unusual weather phenomenon.

Welcome to springtime in the Rockies and parts of the Great Plains.

It’s not unusual for floods, snow and fire to co-exist in the Rockies thanks to powerful storms blowing through the mountains, melting snow swelling waterways and high winds blowing through dry grasslands and trees that haven’t seen their first green shoots and leaves.

READ MORE: Global warming is shrinking glaciers faster than thought

Those conditions are what drove a wildfire Sunday on southeastern Montana’s Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, where a house fire sparked a blaze that quickly burned through 1,700 acres (688 hectares) of dry grass and trees. It forced evacuations Sunday in Lame Deer, a town of about 2,000 people that is the seat of the tribal government, before fire crews were able to contain it.

Also normal are the fire warnings issued for eastern Colorado on Monday, a day after a wildfire near Colorado Springs forced the temporary evacuation of about 20 homes. Forecasters frequently issue red flag warnings for March and April on the eastern and southeastern Colorado plains as the jet stream moves southward and brings stronger weather systems and higher wind, said Jennifer Stark, meteorologist in charge for the National Weather Service in Pueblo, Colorado.

“This is the time of year when we get a roller coaster of weather,” Colorado state climatologist Russ Schumacher said Monday. “Going from 80 degree temperatures one day to a snowstorm the next is not that out of the ordinary, especially in March and April, around here.”

But what is unusual is what’s coming next. A storm system that is moving in from the Pacific Ocean is forecast to intensify and form into a new inland “bomb cyclone.”

A bomb cyclone is a rapid drop in air pressure — at least 24 millibars in 24 hours — and often is over or near oceans or seas because it requires warm moist air smacking into cold dry air, along with volatile weather from the jet stream. The central and mountain part of the country may get one of these every few winters, said Greg Carbin, forecast branch chief for the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in Maryland.

But this would be the second such storm in less than a month. The March 13 storm caused massive flooding in the Midwest, a blizzard in Colorado and Wyoming, and produced winds of between 96 mph and 110 mph (155 and 177.02 kph).

READ MORE: Petition to end B.C. ‘wolf-whacking’ contests gains 60,000 signatures

This week’s bomb cyclone one is expected to be similar in intensity and in snowfall, meteorologists said. Heavy, wet snow will fall from the Nebraska panhandle through south central and southeastern South Dakota into western Minnesota. Wind speeds can reach 50 mph to 60 mph (80 to 96 kph) across Kansas.

“This blizzard will further exacerbate flooding in Nebraska with the added insult of heavy snowfall to eventually melt,” said Ryan Maue, a meteorologist at the private weathermodels.com. “This is more bad news for suffering farmers who are unable to flip the calendar on winter.”

But first, the storm is expected to flooding in Idaho and western Montana, and dump up to 2 feet (61 centimetres) feet of snow in the mountains of Montana and Wyoming as it moves in from the Pacific Ocean. Parts of Colorado that were under a fire warning Monday are expected to see snow and temperatures drops of more than 40 degrees by Wednesday at the southern edge of the storm, meteorologists said.

While it’s unusual to see two consecutive inland bomb cyclones, it’s difficult to pin the cause on climate change, said Schumacher.

“I think it’s an interesting question to ask whether there’s some climate change fingerprint on this,” he said. “But it’s a complicated puzzle to piece together.”

That includes what is happening as the storm forms over the Pacific Ocean, what happens once it’s over land and what effect climate change may have on those variables.

“I’m not sure we have the answer,” Schumacher said.

Matt Volz, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Lighthouse Community Hall to get new $40K roof

Regional district approves 2019 CWF projects

Oceanside RCMP auxiliary officer earns top honour for volunteer work

Dally presented special award by Island Commander

Island residents team up on beach cleanups, call for government regulation

‘It’s way beyond what we can deal with’: Lasqueti, Texada, Denman islanders

‘A really kind person’: Parksville’s Nick Major remembered by instructor

Outpouring of support in the days following death of young man

Banners could add pop of colour to Parksville business district

District includes businesses between the Orange Bridge and McVickers Street

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

Nanaimo tubber sets all-time record at bathtub race

Justin Lofstrom completes course in fastest-ever time

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Most Read