High winds have been wreaking havoc on the region today, causing a number of traffic accidents and helping to fuel flames in multiple wildfires.
*Last updated at 3:54pm MDT 10/18/12, for a look at road closures: http://www.511.nebraska.gov/atis/html/index.html
High winds began early in the day, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a High Wind Warning. As the day progressed, sustained winds were being reported in multiple locations, including Ogallala, of more than 50 miles per hour. Gusts were reported in excess of 70 miles per hour in many locations, as well, according to the National Weather Service in North Platte.
Aside from blowing massive amounts of dust, breaking tree limbs and sending debris flying through the air, the winds led to the possible toppling of some semi trucks in western Nebraska and caused extremely low visibility – which led to multiple vehicle accidents in the region.
Two accidents on Highway 26 near Ogallala were caused by low visibility. Only minor injuries were reported in the accidents. A larger accident on I-80 led to the closure of the interstate late in the morning between Sidney and Big Springs – a closure that is still in effect. A number of area highways also closed due to a mixture of traffic accidents and extremely poor visibility. At one point, a portion of I-80 near Sidney was described as a total brown-out.
Highway 26 between Ogallala and Lewellen is still closed, as is Highway 30 between Sidney and Big Springs.
In addition to a high number of traffic accidents, fires began breaking out in the region throughout the day. Aside from the large wildfire in northern Nebraska, a wildfire broke out near Sutherland, burning some structures in the area, according to KNOP-TV in North Platte. It’s not yet clear what types of structures they were.
Then, in the afternoon, Paxton Fire Chief Kyle Gartrell reported a wildfire between Paxton and Roscoe, mostly south of I-80. As of 3:30 this afternoon, there was no containment of the fire and Chief Gartrell was calling for the evacuation of homes and businesses south of I-80 between Roscoe and Paxton.
While information is still being collected from the extreme conditions in the region today, no immediate reports of major injury or death have been found. We’ll continue to monitor a number of outlets and pass along information as it becomes available.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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