Extreme winds, dust storms and warm temperatures are hitting much of the Midwest

Updated December 15, 2021 at 8:33 PM ET

The Midwest is experiencing a slew of alarming weather events, that have downed trees, caused road closures, destroyed buildings, and left more than a 100,000 residents without power.

Life-threatening weather conditions, including extreme winds with a high threat of tornadoes and record-breaking temperatures swept across the entire region – from the Mexico to Canada borders. And powerful wind and dust storms were reported in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, according to the National Weather Service.

NWS warned of swath of more than 60 mph winds, with embedded gusts of more than 80 mph from New Mexico to Michigan.

In Kansas City, Mo., NWS officials are urging anyone who is caught outside to immediately seek shelter.

A severe thunderstorm warning has also been issued in Wichita, Kan., where intense winds of up to 70 mph have knocked out power to more than 139,000 Evergy customers as of 6 p.m. CST.

The dangerously high winds in Nebraska have produced winds surpassing 90 mph.

In Lincoln, Neb., one reporter from the local ABC News affiliate captured footage of 93 mph winds pummeling the parking lot of the news station.

The station has also reported the strong smell of smoke and ash and smog throughout the state. “It is believed that the smoke is coming from fires in Kansas,” according to the station.

Earlier in the day, warnings of winds up to 70 mph, prompted many k-12 school officials to cancel classes or move to online learning for the day. Businesses also adjusted hours or closed while waiting out the storm.

“Having windy days is not atypical this time of year late fall into early winter,” Shawn Rossi, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Hastings, told Nebraska Public Media. “This is just a very potent system that’s going to be intensifying that is going to really impact our area.”

As of 8:55 a.m., Omaha had tied its record high temperature for the day at 61°, the NWS reported, adding, “This record will be smashed today by about 10°.”

The warmest temperature ever recorded in the city was in 1939 when it reached 72° in the month of December.

The NWS urged residents to avoid travel as blowing dust reduced visibility to near zero.

NWS officials in Kansas Wichita issued a similar warning. Wind gusts of 60 to 85 mph spreading from west to east. “Blowing dust could reduce visibility to less than half a mile at times,” the NWS warned.

In Colorado, wind gusts reached 95 mph in the areas near the foothills, and officials there also cautioned drivers to stay off the road.

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