Strong winds gusting over 70 mph triggered deadly accidents Tuesday in Nevada and Utah, including a 17-vehicle pileup that killed one person and injured at least 16 others, authorities said.
The winds were expected to move Wednesday onto southern Utah and Las Vegas down to Yuma, Arizona.
Gusts and dust wreaked havoc on Utah's Interstate 80 on Tuesday, knocking over several semi-trucks. Six semis and 11 passenger vehicles were involved in a chain-reaction crash in Tooele County, Utah, the state Highway Patrol told NBC station KSL of Salt Lake City. A second semi then hit the pile, causing more collisions behind it. A man in one of the passenger vehicles was killed, and other people were taken to hospitals for treatment, the Highway Patrol said.
In all, as many as eight semis overturned or were involved in accidents on I-80, several of them dumping their contents into the roadway, Transportation Department spokesman John Gleason told NBC News. The interstate's eastbound lanes were reopened late Tuesday afternoon.
Rocky Mountain Power said the winds caused widespread damage to its equipment and facilities in Utah. Almost 15,000 customers remained without power at 4:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. ET), the utility said.
Gusts up to 40 mph snapped the top off a power pole in Churchill County, Nevada, according to NV Energy, which reported that about 425 Nevada customers were without power. The Nevada Transportation Department recorded a 70-mph gust near Baker and Great Basin National Park.
High winds forced a British Airways from London Heathrow Airport bound for Las Vegas to be diverted to Ontario International Airport in California, the airline said.
The National Weather Service said the winds were part of a strong spring system that was expected to continue until near midnight in Utah and Nevada — and simultaneously, a moderate-to-strong Santa Ana wind system was moving across Southern California.
Strong winds pushed a 185-acre wildfire northwest of Reno from private land to the edge of Plumas National Forest in Northern California, the U.S. Forest Service said. No injuries were reported and no homes were thought to be in danger as more than 150 firefighters responded to the blaze.
Wind advisories were issued for the Las Vegas Valley west to the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California, including the U.S. military's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California.
California fire officials increased staffing as the weather service issued a red flag warning for high winds moving into the Los Angeles Basin through Thursday.