It was the last thing Patsy Whitehall expected to see.
Shingles blowing off her new roof. The roof she had worked years to get replaced. The one that was completed about a month ago.
“When you wait that long for a roof and you pay eight grand, you don't think it should be blowing off,” she said. “I couldn't believe it.”
Uprooted shingles and trees, toppled semitrailers and street signs, canceled flights, scattered power outages, scary grass fires and tumbling trash cans.
Thursday was a day of cursing nature, swapping stories and heart-pounding trips in cars and trucks.
With gusts between 50 mph and nearly 70 mph, no other area in the United States exceeded the northern Plains for wind speeds Thursday, said Mike Hudson of the National Weather Service's central region office.
“It would be safe to say that winds across the High Plains were probably some of the strongest winds on the planet,” Hudson said, adding that areas such as mountain tops and oceans typically would have stronger winds.
That gives bicyclists Carl Caligur and Vernon Joseph bragging rights. Both men were cycling around Omaha on Thursday. And both said the headwinds brought them to a halt.
Joseph said a woman had asked him why he would be out on a day like Thursday.
“It is what it is,” Joseph said he told the woman. “I cycle all the time.”
And the tailwinds?
“Like a turbo pack,” Caligur said. “I never felt anything like that. It was ridiculous.”
Another windy day is forecast for Saturday, said Dave Fobert, meteorologist with the weather service. Saturday is not expected to be as windy as Thursday but probably will be more like Tuesday was, Fobert said.
That could mean more toppled semitrailers, more downed street signs, power outages and concern about grass fires.
Much of Nebraska was at high risk of grass fires on Thursday, and a number did break out across the region, prompting harried calls to local firefighters.
Firefighters, farmers and others worked feverishly to keep a field fire from reaching farmsteads and the town of Bradshaw.
The milelong fire in a cornfield began when winds snapped a power line that sparked the blaze to life.
The air was filled with black and gray smoke, with burned debris falling from the sky. The stench of burned material filled the area.
Bradshaw Fire Chief Todd Hellerich said the biggest fear was that embers blown from the fire would spark other fires.
At Wood River, a smoldering ember from a brush fire earlier in the week ignited a cornfield near the town's ballfields.
A grass fire near Callaway closed a portion of Highway 40.
Other serious problems around the region:
» United Airlines suspended flights into and out of Eppley Airfield for most of the day, said Chris Martin, director of operations for the Omaha Airport Authority.
» An electrical short, believed to have been caused by the wind, triggered the sounding of an outdoor emergency siren at 48th Street and Woolworth Avenue, said Phil Rooney, spokesman for Douglas County.
» Visibility was reduced along some stretches of Interstate 80 in western Nebraska due to blowing dust, said Deb Collins, spokeswoman for the Nebraska State Patrol.
» Several semitrailers were toppled on Midlands roads, including one on I-80 near the Alda exit, a couple on Highway 35 in Dakota and Wayne Counties and others in Iowa, including Council Bluffs.
No serious injuries were known to have occurred.
Employers across the region, including OPPD and the Nebraska Department of Roads, delayed some outdoor work to protect crews.
And for just about everyone, the wind was an annoyance.
Nicole Ferguson was one of those unlucky people whose car door was slammed by the wind into another vehicle. She said she left a note, and it turned out the car was owned by “the sweetest lady.”
Elisabeth Lewis' glasses blew off her face.
Kathy Rathburn had to chase her credit card across 84th Street after it blew out of her hand while she was pumping gas.
Of course there were many people helping one another.
Danisha Hurst stopped to pick up neighbors' trash cans. Hurst was surprised how fast the cans could blow down the street.
“Some I had to chase halfway down the block,” she said. “It was just the right thing to do for my neighbors. I know they would do it for me.”
The World-Herald News Service contributed to this report.