(CNN) — An intense storm system moving from the Rockies into the Plains is producing severe weather, tornadoes and extreme fire danger while also bringing widespread damaging winds on Wednesday.
In Minnesota, the National Weather Service office in the Twin Cities said there was a tornado observed in Plainview. This is the first tornado ever reported in the state during the month of December, according to NOAA data. The storm was moving northeast at 70 mph.
“Please calmly take shelter,” the weather service tweeted.
By 9:20 p.m. EST, there also were 19 reports of tornadoes and possible tornadoes in Iowa and Nebraska, according to the Storm Prediction Center. About 300 severe wind reports had come in from across the Central Plains and into the Midwest.
Winds gusting up to 107 mph in Lamar, Colorado, have toppled semi-trucks, ripped off roofs, and toppled trees, according to Mayor Kirk Crespin.
“It’s been an interesting day here in Lamar, and a record-breaking day for wind,” he said. “Gusts have caused widespread damage.”
Crespin said that all emergency management workers are operational and working hard to keep the community safe.
“We have tree damage and electrical lines down as well as the internet,” Crespin said. “We are working hard to keep everyone safe.”
Crespin said crews have been out all day trying to clean up the damage caused by the winds as well as repair lines and that they will continue to work throughout the afternoon in the evening.
“We will have a lot of damage to repair when the winds die down,” he said.
Mike Smaldino, public information officer with the Colorado Springs Fire Department, said that sustained winds and gusts have caused significant damage in Colorado Springs.
“Our own fire department roof has partly blown off,” Smaldino said. “Just on my drive into the city, I saw about a dozen semi-trucks toppled over.”
Smaldino said that calls into the fire department have nearly quadrupled in the last three hours. “We are dealing with gas leaks, grass fires from power lines being down as well as smoldering trees.”
A gas leak at the Chapel Hills Mall caused authorities to have to evacuate the mall. According to Smaldino, the leak was stopped, and the air is being cleared.
Several locations, including the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, have reported wind gusts of 100 mph or greater, according to the National Weather Service.
At Fort Carson, wind caused minor damage to one gate, forcing the army base to close it, a tweet says. The public affairs office told CNN that at this time they are still assessing the damage, but it all appears to be minor. There are no injuries reported and no impact on traffic operations, the base said.
According to FlightAware.com, there are 541 flights delayed into and out of Denver International Airport with 146 flights canceled.
Hurricane-force wind gusts have already been recorded in at least nine states as of Wednesday evening.
The high winds are producing dust storm conditions over portions of the Plains. Interstate 70 was closed for hours in both directions from the Colorado state line to Russell, Kansas, with sand and dust creating near-zero visibility, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.
The weather was so bad at Kansas City International Airport that air traffic controllers were briefly evacuated from their workspace due “to wind and the fact that it is a glass box 256 feet up in the air,” said airport spokesman Joe McBride.
In New Mexico, Taos County Commissioner Candyce O’Donnell said at least 10 homes have been damaged by high winds.
“County-wide damage to homes and a government building (Taos Ski Valley) are being reported,” O’Donnell wrote on Facebook. “High winds of up to 80 mph uprooted trees that fell on structures, damaging roofs. A large tree in the Upper Red River canyon smashed into a home splitting the home nearly in half.”
More than 80 million people are under wind alerts from the storm and over 35 million are under high wind warnings, including residents of Denver, Kansas City, Omaha, Des Moines, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago.