Deadly Bomb Cyclone Brings ‘Historic’ Snowfall to Central U.S.
One person died and tens of thousands lost power as the second "bomb cyclone" in a month brought snow and wind to the central U.S. Wednesday and Thursday.
The storm dumped snow on Colorado Wednesday, canceling hundreds of flights at Denver International Airport before moving through the plains to the upper Midwest, where it covered some parts of the region with up to two feet of snow, the Associated Press reported. Heavy snow fell in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin, The Independent reported. Whiteout conditions were also reported in parts of Nebraska and Kansas, according to the Associated Press.
"We're calling it historic because of the widespread heavy snow," South Dakota meteorologist Mike Connelly told the Chicago Tribune, as The Independent reported. "We will set some record."
Thursday Outlook: A major Spring storm will continue heavy snow and blizzard conditions from the Dakotas to Minneso… https://t.co/Yq2ft4AMRe— National Weather Service (@National Weather Service)1554941019.0
The storm claimed at least one life when a Colorado man lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a snow plow, AccuWeather reported.
The weather site projected the storm would cost $3 billion in economic damages. It led to road closures and forced the cancellation of almost 1,000 flights across the region. Conditions prompted Minnesota Governor Tim Walz to declare a state of emergency Thursday night.
Blizzard conditions in Minnesota led to more than 500 crashes, the Minnesota State Patrol said, according to the Associated Press.
"It's a mess out here. And that is an understatement," Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Gordon Shank said.
A video posted on social media by the Minnesota Department of Transportation showed every power line down along a stretch of Highway 59, NPR reported.
This morning, Hwy 59 south of Fulda (southwest Minnesota) closed after a stretch of power lines fell. Our superviso… https://t.co/6I3rXgg2Sc— MnDOT (@MnDOT)1555001264.0
AccuWeather said the heaviest snowfall in the region had ended as of Friday morning, but that driving would still be difficult because of light snowfall and wind gusts.
The storm comes about a month after another "bomb cyclone" triggered record-breaking flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. This storm is not expected to cause as much flooding, AccuWeather explained:
The March 'bomb cyclone' caused a rapid meltdown of existing snow cover combined with torrential rainfall.
In contrast, rain associated with this storm was not as widespread and snow farther north is not expected to rapidly melt.
Even though rivers are high and some are currently still at major flood stage, a new round of record river flooding is not expected behind the storm.
"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."
However, in general global warming has increased both heavy rainfall and flooding in the Midwest as warmer air can hold more moisture, which means storms pour harder, the National Climate Assessment concluded.
If temperatures are cold enough, that moisture can fall as snow as well.
"During the period when it is cold enough to snow, if you've got enough moisture in the air, you can get some wicked big snowstorms," Princeton University professor of geosciences and international affairs Michael Oppenheimer told PBS in 2015.
Do You Remember Normal #Weather? Scientists Say Most of Us Don't https://t.co/nalC5uCNQx @350 @ClimateNexus— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1551326419.0
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Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab says he believes Tuesday's explosion in Beirut could have been caused by large quantities of ammonium nitrate stored in the port.
What Is Ammonium Nitrate?<p>Ammonium nitrate is a white crystalline salt that can be fairly cheaply produced from ammonia and nitric acid. It is soluble and often used as fertilizer, as nitrogen is needed for healthy plant development.</p><p>Ammonium nitrate in its pure form is not dangerous. It is, however, heat sensitive. At 32.2 degrees Celsius (89.96 degrees Fahrenheit), ammonium nitrate changes its atomic structure, which in turn changes its chemical properties.</p><p>When large quantities of ammonium nitrate are stored in one place, heat is generated. If the amount is sufficiently vast, it can cause the chemical to ignite. Once a temperature of 170 C is reached, ammonium nitrate starts breaking down, emitting nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas. Any sudden ignition causes ammonium nitrate to decompose directly into water, nitrogen and oxygen, which explains the enormous explosive power of the salt.</p>
Deadly Disasters<p>As ammonium nitrate is a highly explosive chemical, many countries strictly regulate its use. Over the past 100 years, there have been several disasters involving the chemical.</p><p>In 1921, for example, a massive blast occurred at a BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. About 400 metric tons of a mixture of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate exploded, killing 559 people and injuring 1,977. The plant was largely destroyed in the blast, which could be heard as far away as Munich, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) distant.</p><p>In 2015, explosions caused by ammonium nitrate ripped through the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/china-convicts-dozens-for-last-years-giant-explosions-in-tianjin/a-36324321" target="_blank">Chinese port city of Tianjin</a>. Eight hundred metric tons of the chemical were said to have been stored along with other substances in a warehouse for hazardous materials. The blasts killed 173 people and destroyed an entire city district.</p><p>Two years earlier, in 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company site in Texas, killing 14 people. And in 2001, 31 people died in Toulouse, France, in an explosion caused by the chemical.</p>
Terrorist Favorite<p>In Germany, the purchase and use of ammonium nitrate is regulated by the explosives act. This is because the cheap, highly explosive and relatively easily obtainable material has in the past been used by terrorists to carry out attacks.</p><p>For example, in 1995, U.S. conspiracy theorist and gun enthusiast Timothy McVeigh used a mixture of ammonium nitrate and other substances to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Norwegian far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik also used ammonium nitrate in a car bomb attack in Oslo in 2011.</p>
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