Strong winds to whip from Omaha, Nebraska, to Chicago and Detroit into Friday

By By Brett Rathbun, Meteorologist
February 21, 2016, 5:43:42 AM EST

Strong winds will roll across the north-central United States, along with a surge of milder air to end the third week of February.

Gusts to 60 mph will howl along a swath from Montana and Wyoming to the Great Lakes into Friday. Locally higher gusts are expected across the High Plains.

More than 580 flights were delayed at Chicago O'Hare International Airport as of 1 p.m. CST Friday, according to FlightStats.

"Winds will funnel into the central Plains into Friday and the Great Lakes into Friday night," AccuWeather Meteorologist Renee Duff said.


This storm will also bring the potential for showers and areas of freezing drizzle from the northern Plains to the Northeast into Saturday.

Any outdoor decorations should be properly secured to prevent them from tearing apart or blowing away.

Those traveling on interstates 29, 35, 75, 80, 90 and 94 should keep a firm grip on the steering wheel as a strong wind gust could quickly cause a car to spin out of control.

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"Drivers of high-profile vehicles will be the most susceptible to these winds and will need to take extra precautions while traveling through the Plains," Duff said. "Empty tractor trailers have the greatest risk of flipping due to these winds."

There is potential for the strongest gusts to also knock down trees and cause sporadic power outages.

Strong winds could lead to flight delays and turbulence. This includes the airports in Casper and Cheyenne, Wyoming; Rapid City and Pierre, South Dakota; North Platte and Omaha, Nebraska; Des Moines, Iowa; Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Chicago; Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Indiana; Detroit; Cleveland; and Buffalo, New York.

The winds will also produce large waves over the open waters of the Great Lakes.

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Gusty winds brought a surge of warmth that shattered record highs in the southern Plains on Thursday. Wichita, Kansas, set a new daily record high of 77 F on Thursday. The old record was 74 F in 1930.

As the storm and its winds shift to the north-central U.S., highs from the northern Plains to the Midwest will run between 20 and 30 degrees above average on Friday.

Conditions will remain on the mild side through Saturday before cooler air spreads from north to south Sunday into Monday.

Content contributed by AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.

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