OKLAHOMA CITY High winds on Monday hampered crews who for a second day battled wildfires that destroyed homes, forced hundreds to evacuate and injured firefighters in parts of Oklahoma and Texas.
The strong northwesterly wind, with gusts up to 30 mph, was part of a huge storm system that also produced blizzard conditions on the central and northern Plains, the National Weather Service said.
Oklahoma is well below its average rainfall for this time of year and the southeastern portion of the state is experiencing a record-setting drought.
Fires burned across 50,000 acres in 15 counties, Oklahoma Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten said.
Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry issued an emergency wildfire declaration for the state, clearing the way for officials to request federal assistance for fire damage if needed.
A shelter was set up at the Methodist Church in Chouteau, just east of Tulsa, where 18 homes were destroyed.
Most of the grass fires began Sunday as winds gusting to more than 60 mph raked the state.
The wind also fanned grass fires Sunday in at least six northern Texas counties.