Microburst causes damage in Campbell County

GILLETTE (WNE) — Strong winds blew through two subdivisions west of Gillette early Monday morning, blowing off roofs, overturning a 30-foot camper and scattering debris, said Campbell County Emergency Management Coordinator David King.

“Mother Nature is just playing with us again,” he said.

The wind gusts woke residents of the Eight Mile and Bennor Estates subdivisions at about 4:40 a.m. and lasted for several minutes.

A 34-year-old man saw his camper blown over in his driveway and called the Sheriff’s Office, which surveyed the subdivisions. No injuries and no destroyed homes were found, said Sheriff’s Sgt. Gary Sams.

In Bennor Estates, King documented debris strewn east along Austin Drive, affecting about six properties.

Evidence of strong wind was everywhere. The roof of a garage was blown 100 yards, a camper was pushed 15 feet down a driveway, a shed lost its roof and the David Avenue signpost was broken off at the base.

“This was wind damage, there is no question about it,” King said.

In the Eight Mile subdivision, the debris traveled north and affected about eight properties. There, a snowmobile trailer was lifted up, turned over and bent. Among the more minor damage was destroyed fences, broken windows and bent metal poles.

“We were fortunate,” King said. “It could have been a lot worse if people were up and out. They could have been hit by debris.”

Because the debris paths had different trajectories in the two subdivisions, King concluded that two separate weather events — called microbursts — occurred.

Microbursts are intense winds that descend from the upper atmosphere after a thunderstorm or rainstorm and flow along the ground. These two microbursts likely formed as a result of overnight rains in the area, King said.

Lightning sparks 10,000-acre fire near Worland

WORLAND (WNE) — Lightning struck twice, thunder boomed and the Terek Fire, located in the Bonanza Oil Field area was born around 10:30 p.m. Sunday evening keeping firefighters from Washakie and Big Horn County, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and Forest Service hopping.

According to BLM public affairs specialist Cindy Wertz, the fire was originally two smaller fires that burned together. The fire is located northeast of Worland, north of U.S. Highway 16 and south of Wyoming Highway 31 mostly on BLM land.

“The fire burned actively Sunday night into Monday morning. Initial attack resources responded immediately and were later aided by aircraft. Four single engine air tankers, two heavy air tankers, three helicopters and two lead planes are currently working the fire. It is now approximately 10,000-14,000 acres and is burning in sage and grass,” Wertz said.

“Hot temperatures and low relative humidity are driving fire activity and these weather conditions are expected to persist in the coming days. State, county and federal firefighters are working hard to check the growth of the fire. However, dry fuels and hot temperatures remain a challenge,” Wertz added.

The BLM is also reminding people the fire area is a no fly zone and residents need to refrain from flying drones in the area as aerial operations are ongoing and the airspace is needed to fight the fire.

Utah man charged with human trafficking

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A Utah man could face up to 100 years in prison after being arrested on suspicion of human trafficking.

Terry Blanks, 35, was charged by the Laramie County District Attorney’s Office with two counts of first-degree human trafficking after police arrested him last weekend during a prostitution sting.

Documents filed in the case outline the events that led officers to recommend Blanks be charged with a crime. Those events have not yet been contested in a court of law or by attorneys for Blanks.

According to the initial affidavit:

An undercover detective with the Cheyenne Police Department contacted a woman on cityxguide.com – a website known for providing advertisements for prostitutes – June 29.

The advertisement featured a woman named “Nessa.”

The detective made arrangements to exchange “150 roses,” a code for $150, in exchange for a “QV,” a code for oral sex.

Nessa told the detective to meet her at the Candlewood Suites, 2335 Tura Parkway, later that day.

At around 2:30 p.m., the detective arrived and called the woman. She said she’d meet him in his car.

The woman then escorted the detective to the elevator, where another woman was waiting, as well.

When the two women took the detective up to room 210, he identified himself as a police officer. Other law enforcement officers at the hotel also identified themselves.

Blanks was waiting in a black 1998 Lincoln Navigator outside the hotel.

When police approached him, he initially gave the wrong name.

The women later admitted they traveled to Cheyenne from Utah with Blanks. One woman called him her “boyfriend” and “bodyguard.”