Nebraska and Iowa were at the center of a strong wind field Tuesday that contributed to two closings on Interstate 80, scattered power outages and debris blowing throughout the region.
Even stronger winds are forecast for Thursday.
Most of the strong gusts Tuesday were from 40 to 45 mph; the strongest were about 50 to 55 mph.
Carl Erickson, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.com, said the strong winds are due to rapid pressure changes associated with successive cold fronts diving out of Canada.
Farther north and east in the United States, the cold fronts are bringing snow. But in this region, they're bringing intense winds, he said.
Today will provide a respite.
Erickson said forecasts indicate that winds will quickly pick up again about 7 a.m. or 8 a.m.
Thursday and peak in the afternoon. Because that cold front is still hours away, the timing could change.
The National Weather Service issued a high wind watch for Thursday for most of Nebraska and western Iowa.
As was the case Tuesday, the winds will be out of the northwest, so they'll cause problems for high-profile vehicles traveling on east-west roadways.
A section of I-80/I-29 was closed Tuesday in Council Bluffs after a semitrailer truck toppled. The accident occurred when the driver swerved to avoid debris in the roadway, according to authorities. The driver was not hurt.
Westbound I-80 was closed just before its split with northbound I-29 from late morning until early afternoon. A detour was established.
Near Aurora, Neb., two minor accidents occurred when smoke from a grass fire obscured I-80. Westbound I-80 was closed for a while, and traffic on eastbound I-80 slowed to a crawl, authorities said. The fire was brought under control in about an hour. No cause was immediately available.
Deb Collins, spokeswoman for the Nebraska State Patrol, said a couple of semitrailer trucks also tipped in the North Platte area. A snow squall swept through, adding to the headaches.
In Bellevue, winds knocked a light pole onto Nebraska Highway 370 near the intersection with U.S. Highway 75, said Officer Carl Grubb of the Bellevue Police Department. At least one car was damaged when it drove into or over the pole, Sarpy County dispatchers said. Additional details weren't available.
Omaha Public Power District crews stayed busy with scattered outages as limbs fell on power lines, said Paula Lukowski, a utility spokeswoman. No major outages were reported, she said.
The high winds did not delay air travel at Eppley Airfield, said Christopher Martin, director of operations.
Marty Grate, who oversees trash collection and recycling for the Omaha Public Works Department, asked that people take a few extra steps on windy days to keep litter down in their neighborhoods.
Bagging trash and tying bags closed before putting them in a garbage can is one step to take, he said. Also, newspapers that are placed in a paper grocery bag are less likely to fly out of the recycling bin.
“I will sometimes hold my recyclables back a week or take them to a recyclables dropoff site,” he said.
It's also a good idea to write your address on your trash can, since it may blow down the street once it's empty.