By Cowboy State Daily (Editor’s note: this story will be updated throughout the day. Last updated 7:00PM, March 13, 2019.)
Traffic in southeastern Wyoming ground to a halt on Wednesday as interstate, U.S. and state highways throughout the region were closed by a strong winter storm.
Businesses, schools and government offices in Cheyenne shut down as the storm raged through the region, with heavy snow and winds gusting to more than 50 mph dropping visibility to near zero.
A number, including Laramie County School Districts No. 1 and 2 and the Laramie County government offices, planned to remain closed through Thursday, when the storm hammering an area from Denver to the Dakotas was expected to release its grip on the region.
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning through Thursday night for Laramie and Goshen counties and for the western Nebraska panhandle.
The City of Cheyenne, Laramie County School District No. 1 and the Cheyenne Regional Airport made their decisions Tuesday to close for Wednesday and the State of Wyoming followed suit early Wednesday morning, when Gov. Mark Gordon urged people to stay out of the weather.
“This storm has the potential to be particularly dangerous,” he said in a news release. “My advice is to stay put and shelter in place. Stay home, stay off the roads and stay safe and warm.”
Echoing that advice was the state Department of Homeland Security’s Deputy Director Leland Christensen.
“The message from Homeland Security is take care of your family, stay home and no unnecessary travel,” he said. “If there is a problem, rather than venture out, reach out to your officials and see if we can’t get you some help.”
As conditions deteriorated Wednesday, the Wyoming Department of Transportation closed Interstate 80 from Cheyenne west to Rock Springs and north to Buffalo. Accidents dotted Interstate 80 from Cheyenne to Rawlins.
U.S. and state highways throughout southeastern Wyoming were closed due to slick conditions and limited visibility. The Wyoming Transportation Department offered no estimate for when the roads might be open again.
As roads in and out of Cheyenne closed, truck drivers parked at truck stops or on roads nearby and prepared to spend a day or two waiting for the highways to open again.
At the Flying J Travel Center south of Cheyenne, employees said all 195 of the facility’s semi truck parking spaces were full.
“We have lots of drivers here,” said Amanda Gladgo. “They’re parked on the roads, too.”
Scattered power outages were also reported in rural Laramie County and near Glendo.
Storm conditions prompted the Red Cross to open a shelter at the Converse County National Guard Armory.
The storm was predicted to be the most widespread blizzard in almost 40 years, stretching from Denver north through southeastern Wyoming and into the Nebraska panhandle and Dakotas.
The historic nature of the storm drew a crew from The Weather Channel to Cheyenne on Wednesday.
A number of communities across southern and eastern Wyoming joined Cheyenne in shutting down schools and government offices, including Torrington, Laramie, Casper, Newcastle, Glendo and Chugwater. The University of Wyoming closed its classes at about 1 p.m. Wednesday.