Strong gusts of wind leading to dust storms, car accidents and power outages have the state on alert. (Photo by Chris Hardy on Unsplash)
TOPEKA — High winds Wednesday in Kansas reduced visibility, leading to road closures and power outages across the state.
Alerts from the National Weather Service indicated some areas of the state would experience wind gusts of up to 80 mph. A 100 mph gust was reported in Russell.
Wind gusts and resulting dust storms led the Kansas Department of Transportation to close multiple roads in western Kansas, including Interstate 70 westbound between Salina and the Colorado state line and eastbound between Goodland and Russell. All state routes in Cheyenne, Decatur, Gove, Logan, Rawlins, Sheridan, Sherman, Thomas and Wallace counties were also closed.
I-70 now closed from Hays to Colorado, both directions. West of Wakeeney we have brownout conditions and zero visibility.
The second wave of winds and dust is headed for Hays. Reports of windows blown out in Wakeeney.
— Trooper Tod (@TrooperTodKHP) December 15, 2021
The transportation department is updating road closures regularly.
In Shawnee County, Gov. Laura Kelly responded to safety concerns with the high wind speeds by issuing a Declaration of Inclement Weather from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Nonessential state workers under the governor’s authority who are working in person will be sent home.
Reno County Area Transportation also halted Fixed Route Bus service at 2 p.m. in response to a severe thunderstorm warning. Routes may resume service if the weather clears.
Evergy crews are actively responding to power outages caused by the heavy winds, which could last through midnight Wednesday. The electric company advised customers to prepare for potential outages by having flashlights, batteries, water and non-perishable food at the ready. Customers should report any outages to Evergy.
There were also reports of out-of-control wildfires that forced evacuations in Sheridan County and the town of Ellis.
Late Tuesday night and early Wednesday, a series of minor earthquakes ranging from a 2.5 magnitude to 4.0 magnitude hit Saline County. The U.S. Geological Survey reports Wednesday’s tremors were in addition to several small earthquakes in the area over the past seven days.
A 4.3 magnitude earthquake hit central Kansas Dec. 8.
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