A powerful windstorm took a toll on East Idaho on Thursday, causing road closures and lots of wrecks.
The National Weather Service said several areas of East Idaho experienced gusts of over 60 mph on Thursday and an equally strong wind event is forecast for Saturday afternoon and evening, with local road closures likely during that storm.
As of Thursday evening, the stretch of Interstate 15 between Idaho Falls and Roberts remained closed because of blowing dust caused by the winds and there were several wind-related crashes on Highway 39 between Aberdeen and American Falls.
The weather service said the winds are expected to subside on Thursday evening after a day that saw gusts reach 69 mph at Craters of the Moon, 68 mph at Idaho Falls Regional Airport, 66 mph between Idaho Falls and Idaho National Laboratory, and 62 mph at Pocatello Regional Airport and at the INL.
Thursday's winds in East Idaho definitely achieved tropical storm strength but fell short of hurricane strength, defined as 74 mph or greater.
Authorities are encouraging the public to stay off of Highway 39 on Thursday evening until the gusts subside.
Motorists reported to the Idaho State Journal early Thursday evening that there were zero visibility conditions on Highway 39 between Aberdeen and Americans Falls because of the blowing dust that caused numerous wrecks on the road starting around 5:30 p.m. None of the crashes resulted in serious injuries, authorities said.
Around 6:30 p.m. Thursday emergency crews finally were able to remove an overturned tractor-trailer from Interstate 15 between Fort Hall and Blackfoot.
Powerful winds had caused the semi to flip onto its side around 4:30 p.m. while traveling southbound on the interstate. The truck partially blocked the southbound lanes, causing several miles of traffic congestion on the interstate. The truck's driver was not injured in the crash, state police said.
The high winds caused authorities to shut down Interstate 15 between Idaho Falls and Roberts as well as other local roads on Thursday afternoon because the blowing dust reduced visibility to dangerous levels.
The National Weather Service issued wind advisories and high wind warnings for East Idaho on Thursday and expects to do so again in anticipation of Saturday's windstorm.