Hutchinson: Crews grappling with vexing wildfires that have charred hundreds of square miles of land in four states and killed six people soon may get a bit of a break: Winds are forecast to ease from the gusts that whipped the flames.
Bill Bunting, forecast operations chief for the Oklahoma-based Storm Prediction Center, said Tuesday the powerful wind gusts that fanned the wildfires in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas should diminish to about 10 to 20 mph yesterday. He said temperatures should top in the 70s, with afternoon humidity low.
“These conditions will make it somewhat easier for firefighting efforts, but far from perfect. The fires still will be moving,” Bunting told The Associated Press. “The ideal situation is that it would turn cold and rain, and unfortunately that’s not going to happen.”
In addition to those four states, conditions were ripe for fires in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska. That followed powerful thunderstorms that moved through the middle of the country overnight, spawning dozens of suspected tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service.
Kansas wildfires have burned about 625 square miles of land and killed one person. The Kansas Highway Patrol said Corey Holt, of Oklahoma City, died Monday when his tractor-trailer jackknifed as he tried to back up because of poor visibility on a Kansas highway, and he succumbed to smoke after getting out of his vehicle.
Two SUVs crashed into the truck, injuring six people, state trooper Michael Racy said. Most of the state’s charred land is in Clark County, where 30 structures were damaged, said Allison Kuhns, a county emergency management office spokeswoman.
About half of those structures are near Englewood, one of two communities evacuated. Kuhns said there also have been significant cattle losses as entire ranches were engulfed.
That fire started in Oklahoma, where it burned an estimated 390 square miles in Beaver County. Officials say a separate blaze scorched more than 155 square miles of land in neighboring Harper County, Oklahoma, and was a factor in the death of a woman who had a heart attack while trying to keep her farm near Buffalo from burning.
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