High winds to rip across interior West and High Plains, generating difficult travel and a high fire risk

A storm, set to release another round of severe weather and tornadoes across the central United States early this week, will generate strong, disruptive winds in the absence of thunderstorms across almost a dozen states from the West to the High Plains, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.

"Winds may become strong enough to cause property damage, knock over trees and bring down power lines Monday from the Rockies to the High Plains," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. "Where the landscape is dry, the risk of rapidly spreading wildfires will increase."

Wind gusts of 40-60 mph swept across the Southwestern states through the end of the weekend before reaching the High Plains by Monday. Pockets of higher wind gusts, in the range of 60-80 mph with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 95 mph, are most likely to occur over the eastern slopes of the Rockies.

After the strongest winds on Sunday blew through portions of northern Arizona and northwest New Mexico northward into Utah, western Colorado and Wyoming, the gusty conditions will spread eastward into the Dakotas and Nebraska on Monday.


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"These winds will make for difficult travel as areas of blowing dust could reduce visibility for drivers across the region," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski said.

The direction in which the winds are blowing can create additional hazards for motorists traveling along the major east-west-oriented interstates across the region.

"By Monday, I-90 and I-94 will be buffeted by strong south-to-southeasterly winds, which can make for tough travel, according to Pydynowski.

Across part of the Southwest and southern Plains where the landscape is dry enough to the point that drought conditions have formed, the gusty winds can cause wildfires to flare up and spread quickly. Sparks may be fanned by downed power lines or open flames from barbeques, construction and agricultural work.

Since the devastating Smokehouse Creek Fire charred more than a million acres in the Texas Panhandle in late February and early March, wildfire activity has lessened in this part of the country.

AccuWeather's expert long-range team says residents in this region of the Texas Panhandle and other nearby areas of the southern Plains cannot let their guard down despite the lessened fire danger in recent weeks. The region is expected to face a high to extreme risk of significant fires this year, especially through the month of June.

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