Hurricane-force winds across Wyoming stopped Union Pacific trains on Wednesday. A wind record set in 2014 fell at Billings Logan International Airport in Montana.
The winds won’t let up on Thursday.
Powerful gusts projected to top 70 mph are in store from Colorado, Idaho and Montana to the Dakotas, Wyoming, Nebraska and Utah, prompting wind warnings through Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
The same high and low pressure combinations contributing to those winds were responsible for a powerful storm on Wednesday in the Pacific Northwest. With an atmospheric river bringing 10 inches of rain to Washington and Oregon, that storm left a trail of damage – killing one person and causing a highway to shut down after a landslide.
More than 300,000 people were still without power in Oregon and Washington on Wednesday night, and the NWS has warned of a continued risk of landslides in the region.
In Wyoming, the NWS in Cheyenne reported a 105-mph gust near F.E. Warren Air Force Base and 16 other gusts of 80 mph or more in the last 12 hours.
The winds were so extreme that Union Pacific stopped trains between North Platte, Nebraska, and Green River, Wyoming, “until it is safe to resume service,” according to a statement on its website.
In Montana, the NWS in Billings reported a gust of 68 mph at the airport, breaking a record set on the same day seven years ago. “January 13th is officially #WindDay in Billings,” the weather service said on Twitter.
Damaging winds of 60 mph or stronger are a common in Montana and Wyoming, but aren’t especially common over the Rocky Mountains, said Dave Bowers, senior meteorologist for Accuweather.
Heading into the weekend, drivers should be careful when operating vehicles, Bowers said, adding that people across the region should also tie down lightweight outdoor objects such as garbage cans.
Winds on Thursday will also bring a risk of fire danger to portions of New Mexico, Southern California, and west Texas, because of a combination of breezy conditions and heat. Some gusts could top 50 mph across Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the weather service said.
Meanwhile, a developing storm is forecast to bring considerable snow into Minnesota on Thursday and Friday, with up to 12 inches expected in Duluth, Bowers said. Windy conditions in the Upper Midwest are likely to cause near blizzard conditions.
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Contributing: The Associated Press