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Power outages reach 18,500 as winds rake North Texas

FORT WORTH -- An estimated 18,500 power outages were blamed on strong gusty winds overnight, and the blustery conditions were expected to come and go through late Thursday night, officials said.

The outages were spread across North Texas, said Carol Peters, spokeswoman for Oncor Electric Delivery.

There were 3,000 outages at daybreak, but Peters reported at noon that the number had grown to 5,000 and then to 18,500 at 4 p.m.

"The high winds are causing lines to slap into each other and limbs to tangle up with them," Peters said. "We get people back on and then another group will go off, just because winds are affecting the entire Metroplex."

Peters said Thursday afternoon that it was still hard to know when the power would be fully restored.

"Until we get a calmer environment, we're going to have some issues," she said.

The National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory through 9 p.m. Thursday for all of North Texas.

Meteorologists for the agency predicted southerly winds at 25-30 mph, while some gusts might reach 40 mph.

They said windy conditions are normal for March through mid-June.

But Jesse Moore, one of the meteorologists, said that it was unusual to see stiff winds after sundown.

"With the heating of the day," he explained, "you get air rising and falling. We call that 'mixing.' So you get strong winds continuing through the day."

Winds tend to decrease with cooling temperatures after sunset, but Wednesday night, they picked up again around midnight.

That's because there were stronger winds aloft that reached down to the ground, Moore said. These wind patterns, he added, are the result of low pressure over the southern plains and high pressure over the eastern United States.

"That pressure difference results in stronger winds," Moore said.

Stacie Hanes, another weather service meteorologist, said springtime wind patterns generally go away around June 10 each year. Moore agreed.

"As we get through the middle of June, we get a normal summertime pattern," he added. "Generally, high pressure starts to build across the area, and normal winds are around 10-15 mph."

Along with the winds, Thursday's forecast includes some clouds which will keep temperatures in the low 90s, which is a bit cooler than the past couple days, Moore said.

There's also a 20 percent chance of rain for North Texas, although spots along the Red River are the areas most likely to get rain, the weather service said.

Meanwhile, the winds are prompting the weather service to urge caution.

"Winds this strong can make driving difficult," meteorologists said in their wind advisory. "Boaters should use extra caution when venturing onto area lakes. Residents may wish to take action to secure trash cans, lawn furniture and other lightweight outdoor objects."

Peters added that residents with no power should not assume Oncor has been notified. She urged customers to call the emergency number on their power bills, and if they see downed power lines, call 911.