Hurricane-Like Winds Pummel Reno Region

Times Wire Services

A windstorm howled through the streets of Reno with the force of a hurricane early today, sending shards of glass slicing down streets, closing the airport and ripping down power lines that started fires and knocked out electricity to most of the gambling mecca.

One death in a traffic wreck was attributed to the sudden storm that began battering western Nevada about 10 p.m. Thursday with wind gusting to 94 m.p.h. and howled through the early hours of today, officials said.

The wind sent sand and tumbleweeds swirling through town and blew apart much of a 127-foot-tall, 44.8-ton, neon sign marking the Circus Circus hotel-casino.

Fires started by downed power lines streaked the night sky red and trees flew through the air, crushing parked cars and blocking roads. Burglar alarms were tripped across Reno.

Snow Hampers Clean-Up

When the winds abated this morning, snow moved in, making clean-up operations difficult.

"It is snowing like crazy now and getting colder than ever," police Sgt. Tom Szupello said. "It's making things really messy out there for cleanup crews."

Szupello said before the wind died down about 2 a.m., it blew the roof off one home, sent 100-foot-tall oak trees crashing down and forced the evacuation of about 50 people from the Sutro Motel, which was "blowing apart."

Power lines writhed like fiery snakes on the ground, setting at least two houses ablaze and forcing the evacuation of 25 people from homes in two blocks.

Sierra Pacific Power Co. spokeswoman Faye Andersen said crews responded to downed lines all over the city and power was resumed by mid morning.

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