Storms have shoved at least four semis off Interstate 80 in Nebraska in the past week — testimony to the power of straight-line winds.
About 7 p.m. Sunday, a strong south wind knocked a semi from the highway just east of Lexington, according to reports to the National Weather Service.
Meteorologist Angela Oder estimates gusts peaked at more than 70 mph.
The driver was wearing a seat belt and was taken to a nearby hospital with non- life-threatening injuries, said Deb Collins of the Nebraska State Patrol.
Those winds were part of a storm that dropped large hail across western and central Nebraska and northern Kansas.
In some cases, the hail was accompanied by winds blowing at 60 to 70 mph. Southwest of North Platte and north of Lexington, hail knocked out windows. Golf ball-sized hail fell in Overton.
Across the border in north-central Kansas, the storm dumped nearly 5 inches of rain and caused minor flooding.
Last Thursday, two semitrailer truck drivers were injured after straight-line winds blew their trucks off Interstate 80 between Sidney and Big Springs.
One driver was taken to the hospital, but his injuries were not life-threatening, said Cheyenne County Sheriff John Jenson. The other driver did not require hospitalization.
The winds also generated a severe dust storm in the county, Jenson said. Visibility dropped to near zero in the worst-affected areas, including where Jenson was driving.
“You couldn't see 2 to 3 feet in front of your car,” he said. “It was a very, very nasty wind for a while.”
Region 21 emergency manager Ron Leal said a total of three semis were shoved off the highway with the Thursday windstorm, the third remaining upright but pushed to the road shoulder.
A sustained wind of 48 mph was recorded with this system, said Brian Chapman, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Cheyenne, Wyo. Gusts at nearby Sidney peaked at 59 mph, he said.
Chapman said a semi pulling an empty load can be tipped over by a wind of that speed because they have such a high and broad profile.
Kansas City-bound traveler Naomi Kilpatrick said strong winds and poor visibility made driving difficult for motorists, too. She pulled off the Interstate and took shelter under an overpass as one of the semis headed into the dusty cloud.
Two cars parked beneath the overpass had their windows broken out. When she got to her Ogallala hotel that evening, another driver said his car's windows were broken out, too.
“Pretty scary for all of us,” she said
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