March 2019 North American blizzard

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March 2019 North American Bomb Cyclone
Powerful Storm System Seen by GOES West (47380253391).png
The extratropical cyclone responsible for the blizzard over the Midwestern United States at 13:55 UTC (9:55 a.m. CDT) on March 13.
TypeExtratropical cyclone
Bomb cyclone
Ice storm
Winter storm
Tornado outbreak
FormedMarch 8, 2019
DissipatedMarch 16, 2019
Lowest pressure968 mb (28.59 inHg)
Tornadoes confirmed38
Max. rating1EF2 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak22 days
Highest gust109 mph (175 km/h) at Grand Prairie Airport
Maximum snowfall or ice accretion52 inches (130 cm) at Wolf Creek pass, Colorado
Power outages140,000+
Areas affectedSouthwestern United States, Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, Central United States, Eastern United States, Eastern Canada

1Most severe tornado damage; see Enhanced Fujita scale
2Time from first tornado to last tornado

The March 2019 North American blizzard was a powerful Colorado Low that produced up to two feet of snow in the plains and Midwest. Rapid snowmelt following the storm caused historic flooding, and some areas received hurricane-force wind gusts. Comparable to the 1993 Storm of the Century,[1][2] the storm was labeled a bomb cyclone after barometric pressure readings dropped in excess of 24 mbar (0.71 inHg) over a 24-hour period.[3] After the storm entered Colorado from its origination in Arizona, the pressure dropped more than 30 mbar (0.89 inHg) and rapidly intensified over the western High Plains.[4] The severe storm set new all-time record low barometric pressure readings in Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico. The storm itself killed only one person in Colorado, but flooding caused by the storm killed at least 3, one in Iowa and at least two in Nebraska[5][6] and left ~140,000 without power in Texas.[7]

Meteorological history[edit]

The system originated from an extratropical low that developed in the Gulf of Alaska on March 8. Over the next two days, the system moved southeastward, bringing rainy and windy conditions to California on March 11, and the system was named "Winter Storm Ulmer" by The Weather Channel later that day, due to the storm's expected impacts. Early on March 12, the system moved onshore in Southern California, subsequently developing into a strong Colorado Low over the Southwestern United States. Late on March 12 through early March 13, the already-unusually strong Colorado low underwent explosive intensification, with the storm's minimum central pressure falling from 994 mbar (29.4 inHg) to 968 mbar (28.6 inHg) in roughly 16 hours, more than meeting the criteria for a weather bomb or "bomb cyclone" (a storm that undergoes a pressure drop of at least 24 mbar (0.71 inHg) in 24 hours[8]). The storm's tight pressure gradient allowed wind gusts in excess of 100 mph to develop in the Texas Panhandle. As the storm headed northward towards the Great Lakes, blizzard conditions were reported in several States, from Colorado all the way north into North Dakota and flooding hit the southern portions of those states. The storm also began weakening.[9]


United States[edit]

At least 1 million acres of U.S. farmland, in nine major grain producing states, were flooded after the storm.[10]


Damage, potentially from tornadoes, was reported in nine counties in the state. So far, damage has been linked to tornadoes in only three counties.[11]


The storm underwent explosive cyclogenesis as it tracked across the Southern Rocky Mountains.[8] Colorado experienced heavy snow and hurricane-force wind gusts from the blizzard, up to as much as 110 miles per hour (180 km/h).[8] 6 to 10 inches (150 to 250 mm) of snow was recorded in the Denver region with 20 in (510 mm) reported in Nederland, Colorado.[12] The storm brought wind gusts that exceeded Category 2 hurricane strength with gusts reaching 96 miles per hour (154 km/h) recorded at Peterson Air Force Base and a 92 mph (148 km/h) gust recorded in Glen Haven. A Category 1 force wind gust of 80 mph (130 km/h) was reported at Denver International Airport.[8][13] The combination of high winds and snowy conditions forced the cancellation of all flights in and out of Denver International Airport most of the day March 13th and a third of the flights scheduled for March 14th.[14] The rapid intensification of the storm over Colorado may have set a new all-time record low pressure record of 971.7 mbar (28.69 inHg) in La Junta, which is somewhat lower than the previous record for Colorado set in 1973 at 973.4 mbar (28.74 inHg).[4] Numerous vehicular accidents were reported with at least 1,000 people stranded on the highways, requiring rescue by the National Guard and emergency services providers. A Colorado State Patrol officer was killed by one driver who lost control of his vehicle on Interstate 76 northeast of Denver.[15]


The town of Lowell may have been impacted by a tornado. Nonetheless, a tornado warning was issued for part of the state.


Iowa was also affected by heavy rains and flooding, closing parts of all nine state parks. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed an emergency disaster proclamation March 14th.[16] One man was killed in Iowa.[6] Flooding across Iowa was described as "catastrophic" especially in the Missouri River Valley south of Council Bluffs, Iowa. There, at least 30 levee failures flooded towns and highways. Interstate 29 was closed from Council Bluffs to the Missouri state border and from there to St. Joseph, Missouri, with portions of the interstate under 15 ft (4.6 m) of water.[17]


The state was affected by severe thunderstorms that produced several tornadoes. Most notably, an EF-2 spotted near West Paducah, strong enough to rip part of the roof off of the Mount Zion church. Other tornadoes were also spotted, one in Morgansfield and the other 7 miles north of Corydon.


Meteorologists were forecasting a record low barometric pressure reading as the storm passed over Kansas. The current record set in 1878 at 971.6 mbar (28.69 inHg) and the storm was forecast to have a slightly lower reading, the equivalent of a Category 2 Hurricane.[18] Dodge City, Kansas reported a new record low pressure.


Upwards of 70 buildings in Vernon were damaged by an EF2 tornado late on March 14th. Strong winds and flooding also affected the state.


The Spencer dam as seen in 2010 was destroyed by flooding waters of the Niobrara River

Western Nebraska experienced severe wind gusts and more than a foot of snow in some localities. A wind gust of 89 mph (143 km/h) was recorded in Hemingford, Nebraska and Interstate 80 was closed from Kearney, Nebraska to the Wyoming border. The Interstate 80 closure in Nebraska along with the portions closed in Wyoming spanned a distance of more than 500 miles (800 km).[19] In the eastern half of the state, rapidly melting snows along with frozen rivers caused record setting flooding in many rivers and streams. On the Niobrara River, the Spencer Dam collapsed and the unregulated flooding destroyed 3 bridges downstream including the Highway 281 bridge.[20] In east central Nebraska, residents along the flooded Missouri, Platte and Elkhorn Rivers were forced to evacuate as some locals experienced all-time record flooding. The city of Norfolk, Nebraska evacuated a third of its residents.[21] The Platte and Elkhorn Rivers had overflowed their levees in the greater Omaha, Nebraska region and some communities were put under a mandatory evacuation order. The Platte River at numerous sites had reached flooding of "historical proportions" with some sites breaking all-time record flood levels by as much as 5 feet (1.5 m).[22] By March 15, access to the city of Fremont was blocked due to all roads being closed in and out of the city.[23] This remained the case days later with national guard military convoys being set up to get food and other supplies into the city. Offutt Air Force Base had extensive flooding from the Platte River and 3,000 ft (910 m) of their only runway was covered in water while 30 buildings had been flooded.[24] As of March 18, 2 persons were reported to have drowned in Nebraska and 2 more are missing and presumed dead.[6] On March 18, Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts stated that the floods caused "the most extensive damage our state has ever experienced."[25] Losses from flooding in Nebraska alone exceeds $1.3 Billion, including $449 million in infrastructure damage, $440 million of crop damage, $400 million of lost cattle. More than 2,000 homes and 340 businesses were damaged or destroyed, costing the state another $85 million.[26]

In the central parts of Nebraska, large ice slabs were reported to have destroyed crops, and Sub-Zero conditions often hurt livestock. An additional round of Flooding is said to have wiped out some farms for years.[27]

New Mexico[edit]

A new all-time low barometric pressure reading for New Mexico was set in Clayton and wind gusts of 100 mph (160 km/h) were recorded in Cloudcroft, New Mexico.[28] In addition, powerful thunderstorms moving through the state spawned several tornadoes, damaging many homes.


A high wind warning was issued by the National Weather Service as thunderstorms with 50 mph (80 km/h) wind gusts downed power lines, tree branches, some fences, and caused other kinds of minor wind damage across Oklahoma City and its suburbs.[29]

South Dakota[edit]

The City of Pierre achieved full on blizzard conditions (frequent wind gusts above 35 mph/56 km/h producing visibility lower than 1/4 mile/400 metres for at least 3 hours). These conditions prompted the closure of the I-90 from Wall to Chamberlain. 18.3 inches (46 cm) of snow fell in Kadoka and winds gusted to 70 mph (112 km/h) in Rapid City.[30]


At San Augustin Pass and at Pine Springs, Texas wind gusts of 104 and 103 mph (167 and 166 km/h) respectively were recorded. At Grand Prairie's municipal airport, a wind gust of 109 mph (175 km/h) tore through, flipping several small airplanes.[31] Winds were great enough in the Texas panhandle to blow over numerous tractor-trailers.[28]


Blizzard conditions were reported for all of eastern Wyoming, especially in the southeastern sections of the state from Casper to the state capital in Cheyenne. Snowfalls in excess of one foot were recorded in several locations with wind gusts of 76 mph (122 km/h) in Carbon County. Both Interstate 25 and 80 were closed through most of the state.[32]

An additional snow squall moved across Southeast Wyoming Friday through Sunday, adding 1-2 inches of snow. Due to the location of the low, many areas were above freezing and had rain instead, which prompted the NWS to issue Flood watches and warnings in the area.[33]


Atlantic Canada[edit]

The storm brought above seasonal temperatures to much of Atlantic Canada, along with soaking rains. Although, Labrador was affected by heavy snow with up to 30 cm (1 foot) of snow in some areas. Afterwards, the storm moved out to sea.[34]

Ontario and Quebec[edit]

The provinces experienced their warmest day in weeks, sparking the risk for isolated severe thunderstorms in extreme southwestern Ontario. These storms triggered flooding along the Humber River, resulting in an evacuation order for 200 people.[35] Behind the storm's cold front, cold, below seasonal temperatures returned along with snowsqualls in the snow belts. Meanwhile, Northern Ontario was hit with heavy snow and strong winds, producing blizzard-like conditions.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Linda Lam (March 15, 2019). "Another Superstorm? How the 2019 Bomb Cyclone Compared to the March 1993 Superstorm". The Weather Company. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  2. ^ "Another Superstorm? How the 2019 Bomb Cyclone Compared to the March 1993 Superstorm". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
  3. ^ Lardieri, Alexa (March 13, 2019). "'Bomb Cyclone' Winter Storm Moving Across Central U.S." U.S News and World Reports. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Spears, Chris (March 13, 2019). "'Bomb Cyclone' May Have Set Unofficial State Low Pressure In Colorado". CBS 4 Denver. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  5. ^ "Bomb Cyclone Kills 2, Cripples Travel in Colorado, Great Plains". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  6. ^ a b c Johnson, Alex. "Historic flooding kills three, forces hundreds from homes across the Midwest" (March 17, 2019). NBC News. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  7. ^ "Damaging storms spawn tornadoes in New Mexico, leave thousands without power in Texas -". Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  8. ^ a b c d "Second "bomb cyclone" in a month brings threat of snow, flooding". CBS. CBS/Associated Press. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  9. ^ "4 Jaw-Dropping Facts About Winter Storm Ulmer". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  10. ^ Huffstutter, P.J.; Pamuk, Humeyra (2019-04-01). "Exclusive: More than 1 million acres of U.S. cropland ravaged by floods". Reuters, via Climate Signals. Retrieved 2019-09-22.
  11. ^ "Tornadoes Hit Midwest, South, Causing Damage to Dozens of Buildings, Including 70 in Michigan". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  12. ^ Miller, Blair. "Snow totals from March 13 'bomb cyclone' blizzard that blasted Colorado". The Weather Channel. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  13. ^ "Wild wind gusts: Top speeds from Wednesday's Colorado blizzard". Fox 31 Denver. March 13, 2019. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  14. ^ Hefty, Jennifer (March 13, 2019). "Travel alert: Nearly 600 flights to or from DIA canceled for Thursday". Coloradoan. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  15. ^ Mitchell, Kirk (March 13, 2019). "Blizzard wreaks havoc on Colorado highways; overnight closures on I-25, I-70 and I-76". Denver Post. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  16. ^ "Late-winter storm hits Midwest after paralyzing Colorado". Twin Cities. 2019-03-14. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  17. ^ Norvell, Kim (March 20, 2019). "Number of levee breaches up to 30 from 12, and Iowa's flood season is just getting started". Des Moines register. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  18. ^ Michaels, Chris (March 13, 2019). "Record low pressure possible in Great Plains; rain for us". WSLS. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  19. ^ Stoddard, Martha; Cole, Kevin (March 14, 2019). "Drivers staying put as blizzard strikes Nebraska Panhandle, closes highways". Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  20. ^ "Spencer Dam collapsed". Siouxland Proud. March 14, 2019. Archived from the original on March 27, 2019. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  21. ^ "Flash flood emergency up for Platte after ice jam breaks; 1 missing in Norfolk". Lincoln Journal Star. March 14, 2019. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  22. ^ Duffy, Erin; Gaarder, Nancy; Peters, Chris (March 15, 2019). "Flood emergency declared for western Douglas County; weather service urges residents to evacuate". Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  23. ^ "Access to Fremont Blocked Due to Road Closures Caused by Record Flooding".
  24. ^ Liewer, Steve. "One-third of Offutt underwater; at least 30 buildings damaged in flood". Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  25. ^ Ristau, Reece (March 19, 2019). "Floodwaters receding in Nebraska, but long and costly recovery lies ahead". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved March 19, 2019 – via Omaha World-Herald.
  26. ^ "Nebraska Faces Over $1.3 Billion In Flood Losses". Retrieved 2019-03-26.
  27. ^ Smith, Mitch. “'It's Probably Over for Us': Record Flooding Pummels Midwest When Farmers Can Least Afford It.” Google, New York Times, 25 Mar. 2019,
  28. ^ a b "4 Jaw-Dropping Facts About Winter Storm Ulmer". The Weather Channel. March 14, 2019. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  29. ^ "High wind warning Wednesday in Oklahoma City". 2019-03-13. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  30. ^ "Winter Storm Ulmer, the March 2019 Bomb Cyclone, Blasted the Plains With Blizzard Conditions, High Winds". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  31. ^ "Damaging storms spawn tornadoes in New Mexico, leave thousands without power in Texas -". Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  32. ^ Foster, Brandon; Sanderson, Shane; Wolfson, Joshua (March 13, 2019). "Governor advises residents to stay indoors as blizzard slams Wyoming". Casper Star Tribune. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  33. ^ Randall, Doug. “National Weather Service Warns Of Southeast Wyoming Flooding.” KGAB AM 650, 20 Mar. 2019,
  34. ^ Inc, Pelmorex Weather Networks. "Atlantic: Flood risk continues as cooler temperatures near". Retrieved 2019-03-17.
  35. ^ Inc, Pelmorex Weather Networks. "Hundreds evacuated as flooding targets southwestern Ontario". Retrieved 2019-03-17.
  36. ^ Inc, Pelmorex Weather Networks. "Ontario: Thunderstorm risk, and what's beyond it". Retrieved 2019-03-17.