Bomb cyclone storm hammering central US, disrupting travel

Heavy snow disrupted ground and air travel on Wednesday in the central US. (Screen grab from AP video)
Updated 11 April 2019

Bomb cyclone storm hammering central US, disrupting travel

  • An unusual but not rare weather phenomenon known as “thunder snow” was reported in central South Dakota
  • Strong winds associated with the weather system were creating dangerous wildfire and travel conditions in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma

WASHINGTON: Blizzard warnings were posted from Colorado to Minnesota on Wednesday and wildfires were a concern in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma as the second so-called “bomb cyclone” storm in less than a month hit the central US, raising the prospect of renewed flooding in the already drenched Midwest.
Heavy snow disrupted ground and air travel Wednesday. Roads became impassable and visibility was down to a few feet in northeastern South Dakota due to heavy snowfall. About half of the daily flights at Denver International Airport were canceled.
Up to 2 ½ feet (0.61 meters) of snow was expected to fall in parts of eastern South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota, the National Weather Service said. Winds in excess of 50 mph (80.46 kph) also were expected, creating life-threatening conditions.
“We’re calling it historic because of the widespread heavy snow. We will set some records,” said Mike Connelly, a weather service meteorologist in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
Transportation officials closed Interstate 29 from east central South Dakota to the North Dakota border and said other stretches of major interstates were likely to close as conditions deteriorated.
Numerous traffic crashes were reported in northeastern South Dakota, and the storm knocked out power to thousands of homes and businesses in Sioux Falls.
Officials in Colorado closed a 150-mile (241-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 76 from just northeast of Denver to the Nebraska border, and Gov. Jared Polis activated the National Guard in case troops are needed to rescue stranded motorists.
Multiple crashes in Minnesota along a snowy stretch of Interstate 35 prompted officials to close about 10 miles (16 kilometers) of the highway about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Minneapolis .
In Nebraska, the State Patrol was sending additional troopers into the state’s panhandle, and officials closed Interstate 80 in that region.



“This storm is going to be dangerous,” Patrol Maj. Russ Stanczyk said.
An unusual but not rare weather phenomenon known as “thunder snow” — snow accompanied by thunder and lightning — was reported in central South Dakota.
“It’s essentially a thunderstorm, but it’s cold enough for snow,” Connelly said.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem closed state government offices in 52 counties. Numerous schools around the state closed, along with several Black Hills National Forest offices in western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts extended five weather-related executive orders until May 15 to help communities gain fast access to the state’s emergency resources. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said “the National Guard stands ready” to rescue any stranded motorists.
The weather service posted an ice storm warning into Friday morning for a portion of southern Minnesota, saying up to three-fourths of an inch of ice could accumulate on power lines, leading to outages.
To the west, the looming spring blizzard in the Rockies impacted flights, school classes, government functions and even baseball.
Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies postponed an afternoon game against the Atlanta Braves until August. Many school districts in Colorado and Wyoming canceled or shortened classes. Local governments, including in Denver and Cheyenne, Wyoming, and state government in the Denver area closed offices early.
Strong winds associated with the weather system were creating dangerous wildfire and travel conditions in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. The weather service issued a high wind warning for the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.
Winds in excess of 50 mph (80.46 kph) were combining with low humidity and an unstable atmosphere to create critical fire conditions in the three states. Forecasters in New Mexico said the winds also would make travel difficult on north-south oriented roads such as Interstate 25. In southern New Mexico, the US Army’s White Sands Missile Range closed Wednesday because of the high winds.
The storm technically met the scientific definition of what’s commonly known as a “bomb cyclone,” said David Roth, a forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in Maryland.
The weather phenomenon with a complex scientific definition essentially entails a rapid drop in air pressure and a storm strengthening explosively. What is more important than the term is the storm’s impacts, which are likely to be similar to last month’s storm , Roth said.
That blast dropped heavy snow and led to massive flooding in the Midwest that caused billions of dollars in damage in Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and South Dakota.
“Hopefully this time it will be a slow snowmelt,” Roth said.
Forecasters said this week’s storm will swell rivers again, though likely not to the levels seen last month due to the absence of a wet snowpack on frozen ground this time around.
Even moderate rises in the Missouri River will push more water into drenched Fremont County in southwestern Iowa, Emergency Manager Mike Crecelius said. Last month’s flooding swamped 455 houses and thousands of acres of farmland in his region.
“The problem is that we’re not getting any time for the water to recede and things to dry out, so the levees can’t be fixed; houses can’t be fixed; crops can’t be planted,” he said.
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Associated Press writers Colleen Slevin in Denver; Alan Clendenning and Danny Pollock in Phoenix; Margery Beck in Omaha, Nebraska; Grant Schulte in Lincoln, Nebraska; Tim Talley in Oklahoma City; and Steve Karnowski in St. Paul, Minnesota, contributed to this story.


Biden expected to nominate Blinken as secretary of state

Updated 23 November 2020

Biden expected to nominate Blinken as secretary of state

  • Antony Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden
  • Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America

WASHINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Antony Blinken as secretary of state, according to multiple people familiar with the Biden team’s planning.
Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden. If nominated and confirmed, he would be a leading force in the incoming administration’s bid to reframe the US relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances.
In nominating Blinken, Biden would sidestep potentially thorny issues that could have affected Senate confirmation for two other candidates on his short list to be America’s top diplomat: Susan Rice and Sen. Chris Coons.
Rice would have faced significant GOP opposition and likely rejection in the Senate. She has long been a target of Republicans, including for statements she made after the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lacked the granular experience in managing day-to-day foreign policy issues that Blinken would bring to the job.
Biden is likely to name his Cabinet picks in tranches, with groups of nominees focused on a specific top area, like the economy, national security or public health, being announced at once. Advisers to the president-elect’s transition have said they’ll make their first Cabinet announcements on Tuesday.
If Biden focuses on national security that day, Michèle Flournoy, a veteran of Pentagon policy jobs, is a top choice to lead the Defense Department. Jake Sullivan, a longtime adviser to Biden and Hillary Clinton, is also in the mix for a top job, including White House national security adviser.
For his part, Blinken recently participated in a national security briefing with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and has weighed in publicly on notable foreign policy issues in Egypt and Ethiopia.
Biden’s secretary of state would inherit a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Trump’s two secretaries of state, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, offered weak resistance to the administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention.
Although the department escaped massive proposed cuts of more than 30% in its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, from which many diplomats have opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancements under an administration that they believe does not value their expertise.
A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement.
“Democracy is in retreat around the world, and unfortunately it’s also in retreat at home because of the president taking a two-by-four to its institutions, its values and its people every day,” Blinken told The Associated Press in September. “Our friends know that Joe Biden knows who they are. So do our adversaries. That difference would be felt on day one.”
Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Biden also is expected to tap longtime diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the US ambassador to the United Nations.
Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America. He is being watched to see whether he will make history by nominating the first woman to lead the Pentagon, the Treasury Department or the Department of Veterans Affairs or the first African American at the top of the Defense Department, the Interior Department or the Treasury Department.
Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, said Sunday the Trump administration’s refusal to clear the way for Biden’s team to have access to key information about agencies and federal dollars for the transition is taking its toll on planning, including the Cabinet selection process. Trump’s General Services Administration has yet to acknowledge that Biden won the election — a determination that would remove those roadblocks.
“We’re not in a position to get background checks on Cabinet nominees. And so there are definite impacts. Those impacts escalate every day,” Klain told ABC’s “This Week.”
Even some Republicans have broken with Trump in recent days and called on him to begin the transition. Joining the growing list were Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a longtime Trump supporter, told ABC that it was time for the president to stop contesting the outcome and called Trump’s legal team seeking to overturn the election a “national embarrassment.”
Meanwhile, planning was underway for a pandemic-modified inauguration Jan. 20. Klain said the Biden team was consulting with Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate over their plans.
“They’re going to try to have an inauguration that honors the importance and the symbolic meaning of the moment, but also does not result in the spread of the disease. That’s our goal,” Klain said.