Printed on: April 30, 2013

Bad winds blow

By CHRISTINA LORDS
clords@postregister.com

Several city-operated facilities closed their doors Monday as high winds rocked Idaho Falls and much of eastern Idaho.

National Weather Service meteorologist Gary Wicklund said the area experienced sustained winds of 55 miles per hour, with gusts of 67 mph reported in Ashton and the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve area.

Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation staff closed Pinecrest, Sage Lakes and Sand Creek golf courses due to downed trees and blowing debris and dust.

Tautphaus Park Zoo also closed due to downed trees, Parks and Recreation Director Greg Weitzel said.

"Sand Creek is, obviously, blowing sand right now and it's not very pleasant to golf in," he said Monday afternoon. "For safety purposes, we decided to close those (facilities.)"

Parks and Recreation staff members reported two downed trees at Sandy Downs and Rogers Street.

"We won't know all the damage until the storm blows over," Weitzel said.

The winds also created power outages in Idaho Falls and Ammon.

Several highways and a portion of Interstate 15 were closed due to low visibility.

The interstate was closed between Idaho Falls and Roberts from milepost 119 to milepost 135 around 3 p.m. Monday, according to the Idaho Transportation Department.

For the first time ever, reduced visibility caused by blowing dust has closed state Highway 32 between state Highway 33 and state Highway 47. The highway was closed about 4:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning lasting from 3 p.m. to about 7 p.m. for the Upper Snake River Plain, including Idaho Falls, Rexburg and Rigby.

"These are fairly normal springtime events," Wicklund said. "As we transition into summer, this is when we get all these types of conditions.

"The severe weather is characterized by strong winds, and as we make the major transition from ... cooler weather into the warmer climate, that's what's happening."