Colorado school officials consider razing site of Columbine massacre

FILE PHOTO: Students arrive for class at Columbine High School before participating in a National School Walkout to honor the 17 students and staff members killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in Littleton, Colorado, U.S., March 14, 2018. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) – Public education officials in Colorado are considering a plan to tear down and rebuild Columbine High School, saying the site remains a “source of inspiration” for potential gun violence 20 years after a mass shooting there left 15 people dead.

The idea was floated on Thursday in an open letter from the superintendent of Jefferson County public schools, Jason Glass, to Columbine staff, students, parents and members of the surrounding Denver suburb of Littleton, Colorado.

The proposal calls for placing a bond measure seeking $60 million to $70 million on a future ballot to pay for demolition of the existing school and construction of a new school to replace it just west of the current site.

Under the superintendent’s plan, the new campus would still be called Columbine High School, “honoring the pride and spirit the community has with the name,” and its school mascot and colors would remain unchanged.

The county Board of Education and administration are “in the very preliminary and exploratory stages” of discussing such a plan, and are seeking public feedback on the proposal, Glass said.

He cited numerous instances in which actual or would-be perpetrators of violence expressed a fascination with Columbine, including an 18-year-old Florida woman who shot herself to death in April after she sparked an extensive manhunt by traveling to Colorado days before the 20th anniversary of the 1999 massacre.

‘SOURCE OF INSPIRATION’

In 2010, 29-year-old twin sisters from Australia, obsessed with the shooting, traveled to Colorado and shot themselves at a local gun range in a suicide pact. One of the women survived, and police found among their belongings a photocopy of a news magazine cover depicting the Columbine killers and their victims.

The Columbine site, Glass said, “continues to serve as a source of inspiration for potential school shooters, and its lasting impact only seems to be growing.”

Fifteen people were killed in the Columbine rampage, which at the time ranked as the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. Two high school seniors shot and killed 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives in the bloodshed on April 20, 1999.

The now-retired principal of Columbine during the massacre, Frank DeAngelis, 64, said Glass had sought his opinion before going public with the demolition idea, and he thought it was a “good plan.”

“Twenty years ago, we never imagined that there would be people so infatuated with this tragedy years later,” DeAngelis said. “Maybe moving the physical plant would alleviate some of the issues.”

Aside from numerous threats and the hoaxes the school has received over the years, curiosity seekers would take pictures of their children in front of the school with the Columbine sign in the background.

“It became a tourist attraction,” he said.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Lisa Shumaker)

Months before shooting, parent warned Colorado school could be next ‘Columbine’

Crime scene tape is seen outside the school following the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) – Five months before Tuesday’s deadly shooting at a Colorado school, a district official urged the school’s director to investigate allegations of student bullying and violence by a parent who feared they could lead to the next “Columbine.”

In a Dec. 19 letter to the director of the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, the district official said the anonymous parent raised “concerns about student violence due to a high-pressure environment” and referred to the massacre at a nearby school in 1999.

One student was killed and eight injured when two classmates opened fire with handguns at the school on Tuesday.

The district official’s letter, seen by Reuters, said the parent told Douglas County School Board of Education Director Wendy Vogel by telephone that “many students are suicidal and violent in school. Several students have reported sexual assault and nothing is being done.”

Referencing an alleged bomb threat and “an extremely high drug culture at STEM,” the parent said the environment at the school was “the perfect storm,” according to the letter.

The parent expressed concerns about a repeat of what happened at Columbine when 12 students and one teacher were killed, about five miles northwest of the STEM school.

Douglas County School District official Daniel Winsor’s letter to STEM Executive Director Penelope Eucker asked the school to investigate the parent’s “very serious” concerns, determine their “legitimacy, and “take any remedial action that may be appropriate.”

The district informed police of the allegations, it said. Cocha Heyden, a spokeswoman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, said on Thursday that the district filed a police report about the complaints.

Winsor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Eucker said in a statement on Thursday that STEM contacted the school’s 2,800 parents seeking information on the complaints.

“While STEM took the allegations seriously, our investigation revealed no evidence to support any of the allegations,” the statement said.

On January 17, the school filed a lawsuit in Douglas County District Court seeking to establish the identity of the anonymous parent, who it said defamed the school and Eucker.

On Feb. 1, the school told parents their attorney was seeking “full remedy” for the “outrageous accusations,” which also included embezzling public funds and teaching children how to build bombs.

“We want you to know the depth of this depravity and apologize if you find this as offensive as we did,” said that letter, seen by Reuters.

(Reporting By Andrew Hay in New Mexico; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Chizu Nomiyama)

Selfless teen killed in Colorado school shooting loved robotics, helping the elderly

People hold up the phone lights during a moment of silence at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019 as U.S. Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO) speaks. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) – Kendrick Ray Castillo, the 18-year-old who sacrificed his life to save other students during a shooting in a suburban Denver high school, loved robotics, helping the elderly in his community and making people laugh, his friend told Reuters.

Cece Bedard, who knew Castillo since elementary school, said she broke down in tears when she heard her friend had died but was not surprised at his selfless act.

“There is no doubt in my mind that he would have done anything he thought he could have to help anyone,” Bedard said on Wednesday.

Two teenagers are accused of opening fire on fellow students on Tuesday at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Denver, killing Castillo and wounding eight other students.

People listen at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

People listen at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Witnesses said Castillo, who was due to graduate in three days, charged at one of the shooters.

“Kendrick lunged at him,” senior Nui Giasolli told NBC News, referring to the older of the two shooting suspects, Devon Erickson, 18, who was being held on Wednesday on murder and attempted murder charges.

“He shot Kendrick, giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room to escape,” Giasolli said.

Fellow student, Brendan Bialy, a U.S. Marine recruit who also charged the shooter with a third student, described Castillo as an unstoppable bowling ball.

“Basically when he gets moving there’s no stopping him,” Bialy said in an interview with multiple media outlets, including Denver’s Fox News affiliate, late on Wednesday.

Bialy said his friend showed no hesitation.

Bedard said she and Castillo both volunteered with their fathers at the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s community service organization when they were in middle school.

Castillo loved tagging along with his father to volunteer with the Knights of Columbus, whether it involved carrying heavy crates of fruit for a peach drive or setting up senior lunches. He was especially good at connecting with the elderly people he served, Bedard said.

“He was always there earlier than I was and was always there later than I was,” she said.

His friends remembered Castillo as a goofy jokester, although his humor was never at anyone’s expense, Bedard said. He had a strong sense of self and did not care what other people thought of him, a trait that made him stand out among his peers.

Castillo was also a member of a regional robotics team, another community that was mourning his loss on Wednesday.

“We’re heartbroken by the death of Kendrick Castillo … Kendrick was a member of @Frc4418, of which his father is Lead Mentor,” FIRST, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing youth in STEM, said on Twitter.

Bialy said Castillo was not a victim but someone who jumped into action.

“I love that kid,” Bialy said. “He died a trooper. He got his ticket to Valhalla, and I know he will be with me for the rest of my life.”

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in NEW YORK; Additional reporting by Rich McKay in ATLANTA; Editing by Frank McGurty, Phil Berlowitz and Paul Tait)

Two students arrested in Colorado school shooting make first appearance

Crime scene tape is seen outside the school following the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

By Keith Coffman

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (Reuters) – Two teenage students accused of fatally shooting one classmate and wounding eight in a suburban Denver school made separate court appearances on Wednesday, a day after their arrest on suspicion of murder and attempted murder.

Douglas County District Judge Theresa Slade, who presided over both proceedings, ordered the two suspects to remain held without bond pending their next court hearings, set for Friday, when formal charges are expected to be filed.

The two youths are accused of opening fire with handguns on fellow students on Tuesday in two classrooms at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Denver.

They were arrested by police after several students under fire at the school fought back, including a young U.S. Marine recruit, Brendan Bialy, who survived, and 18-year-old robotics enthusiast Kendrick Ray Castillo, who was killed.

Castillo’s father, John Castillo, told the Denver Fox news affiliate Fox 31, that his son, “gave up his life for others.”

“If he didn’t do it, what would this mess look like?” he said.

Devon Erickson, 18, accused of taking part in a deadly school shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, appears at the Douglas County Courthouse where he faces murder and attempted murder charges, in Castle Rock, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. Joe Amon/The Denver Post/Pool via REUTERS

The first defendant, Devon Erickson, 18, who prosecutors said they were treating as an adult, sat silently at a small table with his head bowed, hands shackled to his waist, flanked by two defense lawyers as a pair of sheriff’s deputies stood just behind them.

Slight of build with longish, unkempt black hair partially dyed bright lavender, Erickson wore an orange-red jail uniform.

His 16-year-old accused accomplice, referred to in court by his lawyer as Alec McKinney, was listed on the court docket by the name Maya Elizabeth McKinney but was addressed by the judge during the hearing as Mr McKinney.

Denver’s ABC television affiliate, citing an unidentified police source, has reported that the younger suspect identified as transgender and had been bullied for it.

Erickson’s hearing was televised live, but the judge closed McKinney’s hearing to cameras. District Attorney George Brauchler said he would decide by Friday whether to charge McKinney as a juvenile or adult.

Dressed in dark blue jail garb with short-cropped brown hair, McKinney said little in court except to answer softly, “No your honor,” when the judge asked the defendant if there were any questions. The judge refused a defense request to unshackle McKinney for the hearing.

No pleas were entered.

ECHOES OF COLUMBINE

The ABC affiliate, Denver 7, said the two pistols used in the attack had been stolen from the home of Erickson. His friends told the Denver Post that he had acted in musical theater and performed as lead singer in several rock bands. According to Denver 7, city law enforcement sources, Erickson’s parents had purchased the guns legally.

Both defendants were being held on suspicion of a single count of first-degree murder and 29 counts of attempted murder, according to court records. Eight students were wounded in the shooting and survived.

The attack occurred less than a month after the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in nearby Littleton, carried out by two students who shot 13 people to death before committing suicide.

Precisely what happened inside the STEM school remained unclear as police searched for a motive in the attack.

Sheriff Tony Spurlock said there was a struggle as officers entered the building, and some students said one victim was shot in the chest as he tried to tackle a shooter.

A man who identified himself as Fernando Montoya said his 17-year-old son, a junior at STEM, was shot three times when one assailant walked into his classroom and opened fire.

“He said a guy pulled a pistol out of a guitar case and started to shoot,” Montoya told the Denver TV station.

The bloodshed shocked the affluent suburb of Highlands Ranch. Parents and students had considered the school a safe place for its 1,850 pupils ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade.

“It still doesn’t seem real to me. It completely came out of nowhere,” Aiden Beatty, a friend of Erickson, told the Denver Post, recounting that he broke down sobbing in his car when he heard Erickson had been arrested in the shooting. “I was really close with him. We were best friends.”

The attack came a week after a gunman opened fire on the Charlotte campus of the University of North Carolina, killing two people and wounding four others.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Castle Rock, Colo.; additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Peter Szekely in New York and Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico and Rich McKay in Atlanta; writing by Scott Malone and Steve Gorman; editing by Bill Trott, G Crosse and Lisa Shumaker)

Trucker in deadly Colorado crash charged with 40 criminal counts

Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos appears in a Lakewood Police booking photo after he was arrested for suspicion of multiple counts of vehicular homicide following a crash on the I-70 in Lakewood, Colorado, U.S. April 26, 2019. Lakewood Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) – A Texas truck driver who police say caused a fiery multi-vehicle crash near Denver last week that killed four people and injured four was charged on Friday with 40 criminal counts including vehicular manslaughter, prosecutors said.

Police in Lakewood, Colorado said they arrested 23-year-old Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos after he lost control of his tractor-trailer truck during the evening rush hour on April 25 and caused a crash on Interstate 70 that involved at least 28 vehicles.

The district attorney for Jefferson County, where the crash took place, charged Aguilera-Mederos with 40 counts on Friday, including four counts of vehicular homicide, six of first-degree assault and 24 of attempted first-degree assault.

The tractor-trailer, which was carrying lumber, rammed into several cars, causing a pile-up that became a raging inferno, authorities said. The four men who died were all single occupants in their vehicles, according to a local TV station.

“The carnage was significant,” police spokesman Ty Countryman said at the time. “Just unbelievable.”

There was no initial indication that Aguilera-Mederos intentionally caused the crash, or that he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Countryman said.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Truck driver who triggered deadly Colorado crash charged with homicide

Police Lights

(Reuters) – Police have charged a truck driver with vehicular homicide after he triggered a fiery multi-vehicle crash that killed a still unknown number of motorists, some of whom remain in the wreckage on an interstate near Denver, authorities said on Friday.

The crash on Thursday afternoon turned a stretch of Interstate 70, a major east-west highway, into a raging inferno that involved at least 28 vehicles and may have damaged the road surface and an overpass, authorities said.

A day after the crash, the death toll remains at “multiple” as responders and investigators inspect the burned-out vehicles, Lakewood, Colorado, police spokesman Ty Countryman told reporters.

“We’re just saying ‘multiple’ at this time,” he said, adding that six people were taken to hospitals.

Asked whether there were still any bodies at the crash site, Countryman said, “Unfortunately, yes, there are.”

Police said the chain-reaction crash started when a tractor-trailer truck collided with slower traffic on the highway.

The driver, who was injured in the crash, but not seriously, was taken into custody after police determined they had sufficient cause to bring “multiple counts of vehicular homicide” against him, Countryman said.

There was no indication that the driver, who was not immediately identified, intentionally caused the crash, Countryman said, adding that “at this time there’s no evidence of drugs or alcohol.”

Despite the criminal charges, Countryman said investigators were also trying the determine if the truck’s brakes failed.

The stretch of Interstate 70, which runs through Denver west into the Rocky Mountains, will remain closed in both directions at least until sometime on Saturday, state Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Josh Laipply told reporters.

Parts of the highway will need to be resurfaced and, while a preliminary check shows that a bridge over the crash site was undamaged, it will need a full safety inspection, Laipply said.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Doves, heartbreak and hope on 20th anniversary of Columbine High massacre

A man looks at a line of crosses commemorating those killed in the Columbine High School shooting on the 20th anniversary of the attack in Littleton, Colorado, U.S., April 20, 2019. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

By Keith Coffman

LITTLETON, Colo. (Reuters) – A week-long series of events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre culminated on Saturday with a remembrance ceremony celebrating the lives of the 13 victims slain in the rampage.

On April 20, 1999, two Columbine students, just three weeks shy of graduation, stormed the suburban Denver school armed with shotguns and semiautomatic weapons, fatally shooting 12 students and a teacher before committing suicide.

Addressing hundreds of people gathered at Saturday’s service in a park next to the school, Dawn Anna, mother of slain student Lauren Townsend, spoke on behalf of all the families of the victims about their sense of loss.

“Our hearts have huge holes in them, but our hearts are bigger than they were 20 years ago,” Anna said.

Patrick Ireland, whose fall out of a school library window into the arms of firefighters, which became one of the iconic images of the massacre, spoke of his long physical and emotional recovery.

“You’re a victim only if you allow yourself to become one,” Ireland said.

Thirteen doves were released at the end of the ceremony.

For the relatives of those killed, April 20 evokes a mix of emotions from sorrow and anguish to fond memories of loved ones.

Betty Shoels, the aunt of murdered student Isaiah Shoels, said her 18-year-old nephew was a fun-loving athlete who was always smiling, despite feeling out of place as one of the school’s few African-American students.

“What I miss most is his laugh,” Shoels told Reuters. ”He was just a great kid who loved to joke.”

This year’s remembrances were marred this week when a Florida teenager, who authorities said was “obsessed” with Columbine, traveled to Colorado where she died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

Evan Todd was a sophomore at Columbine two decades ago when he was wounded in the school library, where 10 of the students were killed. He said whenever he hears of school shootings or other tragedies somehow linked to Columbine, it reminds him that he was “part of something so gruesome and so public.”

He often recalls his football teammate Matt Kechter, who was shot dead just a few feet away from him.

“Sometimes I wonder what Matt would be doing now, what is life would be like,” said Todd, 35, who is the father of a one-year-old son.

He credits his family and Christian faith for getting him through the months following the tragedy.

“I’m just thankful that I survived,” he said.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Chizu Nomiyama)

Teen ‘infatuated’ with Columbine found dead in Colorado

FILE PHOTO: People visit the Columbine memorial after teens kicked off a voter registration rally, a day ahead of the 19th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colorado, U.S., April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) – A Florida teenager believed to be armed and “infatuated” with the Columbine massacre was found dead by authorities in Colorado after she traveled to the state days before the 20th anniversary of the school attack, according to CNN and other media reports.

Sol Pais, identified as an 18-year-old woman from Surfside, Florida, who authorities called “extremely dangerous,” was found

in Clear Creek County, a local CBS affiliate reported. CNN, citing law enforcement sources, reported that she was dead when authorities found her.

Pais was “no longer a threat to the community,” Patricia Billinger, a spokeswoman for Colorado’s Public Safety Department told Reuters. She declined to elaborate.

Clear Creek County is about 40 miles (64 km) west of Columbine High School, where two teenaged male students shot and killed 12 classmates and a teacher on April 20, 1999, before committing suicide.

Area schools were closed on Wednesday as FBI agents, Jefferson County deputies and Colorado state troopers searched for Pais.

Pais flew from Miami to Denver on Monday, where she bought a pump-action shotgun and ammunition, FBI Special Agent in Charge Dean Phillips said at a news conference late on Tuesday. Denver is adjacent to Jefferson County.

Some 20 to 30 officers were searching for her near the Echo Lake Campground in the Arapaho National Forest on Wednesday morning, CBS4 in Denver reported.

A spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools said that Pais was student at Miami Beach Senior High School and that there was no threat to schools within the district.

On Tuesday, an FBI bulletin said authorities lacked probable cause for a formal arrest but that law enforcement should detain Pais for a mental-health evaluation.

The sheriff’s Twitter post, which included two photos of Pais, said she was dressed in a black T-shirt, camouflage pants and black boots.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver, additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, and additional writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Larry King and Bill Berkrot)

Millions in central U.S. brace for ‘life-threatening’ blizzards, potential floods

Floodwaters flow along a street in Pullman, Washington, U.S. in this still image taken from April 9, 2019 social media video. ELLIE STENBERG/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – A blizzard hitting the U.S. Rockies on Wednesday was forecast to move eastward over the next day, threatening to bring new flooding to the Plains states including parts of South Dakota and Missouri that are still recovering from last month’s inundation.

High spring temperatures will give way to heavy snow, gale-force winds and life-threatening conditions across a swathe of the central United States running from the Rockies to the Great Lakes, according to the National Weather Service.

“This is potentially a life-threatening storm,” Patrick Burke, a meteorologist with the NWS’s Weather Prediction Center in Maryland, said Wednesday.

A sign for shops is seen as floodwaters flow along a street in Pullman, Washington, U.S. in this still image taken from April 9, 2019 social media video. ELLIE STENBERG/via REUTERS

A sign for shops is seen as floodwaters flow along a street in Pullman, Washington, U.S. in this still image taken from April 9, 2019 social media video. ELLIE STENBERG/via REUTERS

A cyclone last month dropped heavy rains over that region, causing extensive flooding along the Missouri River and more than $3 billion in damage to property and crops in Nebraska and Iowa.

Pueblo, Colorado, hit 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) on Tuesday, but will drop down to 25F (minus 4C) by early Thursday. Similar temperatures are forecast in Denver.

The storm is expected to bring blinding, heavy wet snow across the region, likely downing trees and causing widespread power outages, widespread road closures and making driving treacherous, Burke said.

“It’s slow moving. It won’t push farther east until Friday,” he said.

Some areas of western Minnesota and southeast South Dakota were expected to get up to 30 inches of wet, heavy snow, the NWS said.

Two factors may limit the flooding effect, forecasters said. Thawed ground will be able to absorb more precipitation than last month’s frozen ground and a fall of heavy snow rather than rain will slow the runoff process.

Nearly 500 flights were canceled at Denver International Airport on Wednesday, about a quarter of its total schedule, according to FlightAware.com, an airline tracking website.

Airport officials said they had snow-removal crews in place.

The coming storm was expected to exacerbate flooding along the Missouri River in areas where dozens of levees were breached in March, exposing communities to future surges. The river was not expected to crest in areas of Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri until between three to five days after the storm.

The storm is expected to weaken and push off into the Great Lakes area and northern Michigan on Friday, bringing more rain and snow, the weather service said.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Alison Williams and Susan Thomas)

Colorado trooper killed as ‘Bomb Cyclone’ unleashes snow, high winds

A policeman talks to a driver as snow clogs the roads in Lone Tree, Colorado, U.S. in this March 13, 2019 handout photo. City of Lone Tree, Colo./Handout via REUTERS

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) – A late-winter blizzard slammed U.S. Rocky Mountain and Plains states on Wednesday, unleashing a “bomb cyclone” of high winds and drifting snow that stranded motorists, canceled more than 1,300 airline flights and was blamed for the death of a Colorado state trooper.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency due to the storm and said he had activated the state National Guard to assist in search and rescue operations.

Corporal Daniel Groves, 52, of the Colorado State Patrol is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters March 13, 2019. Colorado State Police/Handout via REUTERS

Corporal Daniel Groves, 52, of the Colorado State Patrol is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters March 13, 2019. Colorado State Police/Handout via REUTERS

The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings for parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and the Dakotas as schools and businesses were closed and local authorities urged residents to hunker down.

Meteorologists referred to the storm as a “bomb cyclone,” a winter hurricane that forms when the barometric pressure drops 24 millibars in 24 hours.

“So far, we have received 110 traffic crash reports and #Denver remains on #AccidentAlert,” the Denver Police Department said on Twitter.

“If you absolutely have to head out, please be cautious- it’s still #snowgoing out there. Turn your lights on, set the wipers on high; don’t forget the extra stopping distance. #BombCyclone”

The Colorado State Patrol said one of its troopers, Corporal Daniel Groves, was struck by a car that veered out of control on Interstate 76 and he died of his injuries a short time later at Platte Valley Medical Center in Brighton.

At the time, Groves, 52, was on the scene of another accident in which a vehicle had slid off the roadway, the state patrol said. It added that “high speed in poor driving conditions” was being investigated in connection with the crash that caused his death.

A general view of the blizzard in Greeley, Colorado, U.S. March 13, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media. Mandatory credit TWITTER @PHOTOWILLG/via REUTERS

A general view of the blizzard in Greeley, Colorado, U.S. March 13, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media. Mandatory credit TWITTER @PHOTOWILLG/via REUTERS

FLIGHTS DELAYED, CANCELED

All six runways at Denver International Airport were shuttered, along with the main road into the airport due to drifting, blowing snow. An airport spokesman said 1,339 flights had been canceled as of mid-afternoon. Colorado Springs Municipal Airport canceled all incoming flights.

All school districts in the seven-county Denver metropolitan were closed, along with most city and state government offices and many businesses.

Officials in El Paso County, Colorado, said some 1,100 motorists were stranded on Interstate 25 near Colorado Springs.

Utility company Xcel Energy said about 130,000 commercial and residential customers in Colorado were without power due to high winds and wet heavy snow.

“Limited visibility has affected our ability to respond,” Xcel Energy spokesman Mark Stutz said, adding it was unclear when power would be restored.

The police department in Northglenn, Colorado, tweeted a picture of a large tree that fell on a home, breaking through the roof. It was not immediately clear if anyone was hurt.

Interstate 70 was closed east of Denver to the Kansas state line and sections of Interstate 25 were also shut down, according to Colorado Department of Transportation.

“They typically do get strong systems this time of the year in that part of the country, but this one is maybe a notch stronger than what you typically see,” said meteorologist Marc Chenard of the weather service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

Forecasters said they expect winds of up to 70 miles per hour (110 kph) to sweep across a wide area of states to the south, including New Mexico and parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

“Pretty much through much of the Plains there’s going to be a threat for potential power outage issues,” Chenard said.

More than 100,000 electric power customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area were left in the dark early on Wednesday after a line of rain squalls associated with the system moved through the area.

The storm was also expected to bring heavy rain to areas of eastern Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota that already have a good deal of snow on the ground, raising the threat of river flooding, the weather service said.

The storm system is expected to weaken by Thursday as it moves over the Tennessee River Valley, bringing mostly rain from Michigan southward to the Gulf Coast and some remaining snow only in the far northern parts of the country, the weather service said.

(This story corrects name of Colorado governor in second paragraph)

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; additional reporting Peter Szekely in New York, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Sandra Maler)