A massive dust storm closed roads, high winds blew semi-trailers and cars off the roads and an 18-car pileup on Interstate 35 closed the interstate in both directions from Blackwell to Tonkawa, Okla. at 3:30 p.m. today.
A front moving from southwest Nebraska toward Oklahoma kicked up winds with gusts to 65 mph and relocated topsoil across South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Visibility was down to zero in parts of Kansas as the National Weather Service in Wichita and Norman, Okla. and health officials in Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma warned people with respiratory problems to stay indoors and healthy people to avoid outdoor exercise.
A Nebraska radio station reported that the Nebraska Department of Roads closed portions of Interstate 80 and two other highways are closed due to blowing dirt about two hours ago. Highway 26 between Lewellen and Ogallala, as well as both I-80 and Highway 30 between Sidney and Big Springs are both closed. These highways are closed both directions. Eastbound I-80 is also closed from Cheyenne to Sidney.
Even as the howling winds filled the air with dirt, the danger of fire also rose to critical levels. Red alert fire warnings were issued in Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.
Fires broke out in Nebraska and the state emergency management department said fires in Boone, Cherry, Fillmore, Holt, Knox, Merrick and Nance counties accounted for an estimated 58,000 acres yesterday in Nebraska bringing fire acreage estimates to about 300,000 this fire season.
Windblown dirt is expected to remain a problem well into the evening hours and a blowing dust advisory covers the entire eastern two-thirds of Kansas.