Snow plow
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A snow plow makes a turn on N. Tejon St. on Sunday. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

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A major storm expected to hammer El Paso County and much of eastern Colorado on Wednesday has triggered questions about an alarming term: bomb cyclone.

The official term is "bombogenesis," and it's used to described the rapid intensification of a storm, said Klint Skelly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo.

Click here for an updated list of school closings and delays.

A storm's intensity is measured in pressure, with lower pressure storms packing more punch. But despite the expected blizzard conditions, Wednesday's storm won't quite meet the bomb cyclone threshold, Skelly said.

The term is reserved for storms that drop at least 24 millibars, or units of pressure, over a 24-hour period. Currently, NWS models only show it dropping 15 millibars, Skelly said.

“It doesn’t meet the classification of a bombogenesis, but it’s still rapidly intensifying and anomalously strong,” Skelly said of the storm.

'Anomalous' blizzard to hit Colorado Springs area Wednesday, schools closed, flights canceled

Still, the storm will challenge some of the lowest pressure readings ever recorded in the state.

The average pressure at sea level is 1,013.25 millibars, but current models forecast pressure over the state as low as 975 millibars, according to The Colorado Climate Center.

Russ Schumacher, Colorado’s climatologist, said in a Tweet Wednesday that the lowest pressure he could find was 975.8 millibars out of La Junta in 1973. Official records to track low sea-level pressure aren’t kept, he said.

That means the storm will bring with it lost of wind, equivalent to a category 1 or 2 hurricane.

Wind gusts up to 70 mph in Colorado Springs and even higher across the plains "could cause extensive tree damage" and is capable of overturning lightweight, high-profile vehicles, the National Weather Service in Pueblo reported.

Contact the writer at 719-636-0362 or find her on Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin.


Kaitlin is a public safety reporter with a focus on investigations. She is a proud Ohioan, champion for local libraries, volunteer reading tutor and an expert ice cream connoisseur (mint chocolate chip!). She joined the Gazette in 2016.

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