The storm system generating tornadoes in the central United States on Wednesday also spawned high winds in Kansas that knocked over power lines and caused several wildfires, the authorities said.
Winds reaching as high as 100 miles per hour generated fires throughout the western and central parts of the state, said Jane Welch, a spokeswoman for the state’s Division of Emergency Management. At least one home was destroyed, she said, but no deaths or injuries had been reported by Wednesday night.
High winds also fanned a fire that started on Wednesday near Guymon, Okla., and prompted the police to evacuate some residents. It was under control by Wednesday night, the police said.
Forecasters had predicted earlier that gusty winds, dry air and warm temperatures would create conditions ripe for “an extreme to potentially catastrophic grassland fire.”
Eric Metzger, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Wichita, said on Wednesday that the biggest fire on satellite imagery in Kansas was in Russell and Ellsworth Counties, where two blazes had merged in a massive one that appeared to be 40 miles long.
It was still burning as midnight approached.
Mr. Metzger said that before Wednesday, Kansas had not had any rain for over a month. The state has seen fires in December, when the weather gets dry, he added, but this one felt different.
“I’ve lived out here for more than 20 years,” he added. “This is historic for us.”
He said the same storm system that generated rain and tornadoes could also whip up fires because the Gulf of Mexico had blocked moisture from moving north.
Ms. Welch said the winds were so strong on Wednesday night that it was too dangerous for emergency crews to fight the fires from the air. The smoke had already gotten so bad that it could be detected in neighboring Nebraska, the National Weather Service said.
In addition to the fires, which prompted several evacuation orders, high winds have blown over eighteen-wheelers and dust storms have whipped through the state, hindering visibility, Ms. Welch said.
“It’s a little crazy in Kansas today,” she said.
Source: NY Times