UPDATE: Officials have confirmed that 16 houses have been confirmed with damage.
(Gillette, Wyo.) A powerful storm front swept through Northeast Wyoming on Sunday night, causing thousands of dollars in damage across Campbell County. According to Melissa Smith with the National Weather Service, the line of storms started in southeast Montana and continued all the way down to Converse County.
"We have several measured wind gusts between 50-60 miles per hour," Smith told County 17. "We had reports from up in Weston all the way down to Wright. There were probably wind gusts even higher than that."
A dozen homes with wind damage were reported in Freedom Hills, near Wyodak. Around 8 p.m. crews searched a home there that was filled with smoke, but found no fire. They determined it was from an appliance that received an electrical surge from a nearby transformer hit by lightning. Powder River Energy was contacted about the transformer.
h/t Kaylee Bauer
Tree branches in to power lines also caused power outages in the area. The winds rolled RVs over, homes have been moved off their foundations, and roofs from homes and garages were blown off all around the area. Thankfully there were no injuries reported.
h/t Lonny McMillan
West of Gillette near Wild Horse Creek Road there was also a lot of damage. The McMillans reported their barn was picked up and dropped fifty feet away, on top of their animal pens. No animals were injured, but their camper did not survive the storm. It was rolled over and smashed.
Several motor homes were tipped over on I-90 during the storm near mile marker 135. On Partridge Court, winds blew a camper down a hill and cracked its propane tanks, which was some concern for CCFD and the Campbell County Sheriff's Office.
While many reported seeing funnel clouds, there has been no official confirmation of a tornado in the area, and the damages recorded match up with wind damage from the storm traveling straight through.
"Usually the only difference between a tornado and straight line winds is, straight line winds all the damage goes in one direction, while with a tornado it can be spun in different directions," explained Smith. "Straight line winds can be just as strong and damaging as tornadoes, if not worse, because they can occur over a much larger area. Tornadoes are more localized."
All the damage and debris was directed east, according to Smith, which was consistent with the direction of the storm front. The heavy rain would have meant any funnel clouds would have been hard to spot, as they would have been rain-wrapped.
Firefighters responded to lightning-caused grass fires from south of Wright to Rozet, as well as assisting home owners with wind damage. One reported fire near Weston Hills was put out by the heavy rain.
We have more photos from damage to the Freedom Hills area here.
Feature photo: Lightning photo h/t Beth Hulings