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High winds rocking the Plains

Truckers face an elevated risk of rollovers Thursday in the Plains with high winds likely across a large section of the country.

The winds have been developing behind a cold front stretching from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast, blowing over semis this week. The threat will continue until Thursday evening.

Gusts of 60 to 70 mph will be common from the Dakotas all the way to Texas. Not only will this elevate the risk of more rollovers, but the winds may also kick up localized dust storms, reducing visibility at times.

Because dry van and temperature-controlled trailers have large surface areas, they are prone to swaying and tipping over during strong winds. If conditions become difficult, the best thing for drivers to do is slow down or pull over and stop. These are a few other tips for handling high winds, according to Roeder Cartage Company: 

  • Don’t pass other vehicles or make sudden lane changes.
  • Be careful when driving near bridges, overpasses or tunnels. 
  • Use low beams when there is no oncoming traffic so you can see better in blowing dust, snow or rain.
  • If visibility is limited due to blowing dust, snow or rain, slow down even more and avoid traveling at night. 
  • Avoid parking under trees because they may be uprooted by high winds and may damage equipment.

An additional risk Thursday will be the potential for wildfires or brush fires to start in drought-stricken areas of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. Not only is the ground parched, but the air will be extremely dry Thursday, with relative humidity below 20% in many places. The high winds could spread new fires quickly, with smoke limiting visibility.

A few things truckers can do to prevent fire include not parking in grassy areas, not dragging chains and not flicking cigarettes into grassy areas.

The National Weather Service has issued high-wind warnings, wind advisories and red-flag warnings (for fire conditions) from North Dakota to southern and eastern Texas.

Major lanes of concern

  • Interstate 29 from Omaha, Nebraska, to the U.S.-Canada border.
  • Interstate 35 from Dallas to Topeka, Kansas.
  • Interstate 45 from Houston to Dallas.
  • Interstate 70 from Denver to Kansas City, Missouri.
  • Interstate 80 from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Omaha.
  • Interstate 90 in South Dakota from Pierre to Sioux Falls.
  • Interstate 94 in North Dakota from Bismarck to Fargo.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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