Warming temperatures stunted the growth of ice jams along rivers in Oregon, Idaho and Michigan on Thursday while 80-m.p.h. wind gusts raked the Great Plains, making highways hazardous and knocking out power.
A cold front moving east across Nebraska blasted the state with winds that reached 77 m.p.h. at Harrison and 68 m.p.h. at Broken Bow.
A 36-year-old woman was killed when her car went out of control on icy Interstate 80 near North Platte, Neb., and a 69-year-old woman died when her car left the interstate in 50-m.p.h. wind gusts, rolled twice and landed in a creek, state police reported.
Dozen Families Homeless
A dozen families remained homeless along the Oregon-Idaho border, forced out by the 40-mile-long ice jam on the Snake River. A sudden weather change New Year's Day eased the immediate danger of flooding as temperatures rose above the freezing mark for the first time since early December.
But with the warmer weather came an added threat the jam could thaw too quickly and cause major flooding.
"We need cold nights and pretty warm days," said Bud Town, emergency services director of Malheur County, Ore.
"This break in the weather is something we have all been looking for," Town said. "This is the first sunshine in three weeks, and we're glad for it."
Residents along the Salmon, Snake, Payette, Weiser and Portneuf rivers in Idaho, as well as the Snake and Malheur in Oregon, faced the possibility that ice could melt quickly and cause flooding.
In Idaho, the greatest flood potential remained for the mountain town of Salmon, about 400 miles northeast of the Snake River flooding. But no new flooding was reported there, where ice jams on the Salmon and Lemhi rivers have flooded only low-lying farmland.
Flash flood watches were posted for a second day on the Muskegon River in Muskegon County, Mich., where an ice jam caused minor flooding. Officials also kept an eye on a large ice barrier forming four miles upstream from the Maple Island Bridge, which could further compound flooding problems.
The threat of new flooding forced Consumers Power Co. to lower its outflow at two dams on the river.
High wind warnings remained in effect near the mountains in southeast Wyoming, but it was Denver that clocked the highest wind overnight.
Officials at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in the foothills near Denver recorded one wind gust of 80 m.p.h. The winds tossed tree limbs and drifted snow, causing at least 10 power outages in Denver.
In Wyoming, the mountain passes between Cheyenne and Rock Springs had 70 m.p.h. wind gusts.