Wyoming Blizzard: Snow Records Broken, Motorists Stranded, Snowplows Give Up

A late winter blizzard knocked out power for thousands of people and led some Wyoming road crews to suspend operations until the record-breaking snowstorm subsided.

Jimmy Orr

March 14, 20213 min read

FILE PHOTO (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

It’s official, at least in Wyoming’s capital city anyway. This weekend’s snowstorm is a record-breaker.

With 26 inches of snow on Cheyenne by mid-day Sunday, the National Weather Service said the city broke a two-day snow total record beating the past amount of 25.2 inches recorded back in 1979.

The heavy snow prompted closures for all state government offices in Cheyenne on Monday, the University of Wyoming, all schools in Laramie and Natrona counties, as well as city offices in both locations.

“Conditions are brutal out there folks,” Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) officials said. “These heavy winds and snowfall are creating massive drifts on the roads and whiteout conditions.”

It’s so bad, WYDOT said, that immediately after drifts are plowed, they fill up again.

“WYDOT will need rotary plows (typically used to clear WYO 130 of snow in the spring) to clear drifts accumulating on portions of I-80,” they said.

To that end, crews in some areas have suspended operations.

“Due to overwhelming snow and lack of visibility we have decided to suspend our plowing operations in the Casper area. We’ve had several plows drive off the roadway due to limited to zero visibility,” the department said.

Same goes for the City of Casper. If you get stuck, you’re stuck.

“City crews are not available to assist stranded motorists. If you have a true emergency, call 911,” the city announced.

Despite most roads in the affected areas being closed — including all of Interstate 80 and Interstate 25 — the Wyoming Highway Patrol said they were fielding calls from many motorists who were stranded.

Photos shared by the Highway Patrol appeared to show a tow truck trying to rescue another tow truck in very difficult conditions.

“Please stay home and off the roadways,” the patrol said.  “Many roads are impassable, causing dangerous conditions for crews to assist you if you become stranded.”

By mid-afternoon Sunday, power outages were still being reported in affected areas.

At 12:50pm Black Hills Energy reported 4,000 customers in northern Cheyenne and rural areas west of Cheyenne were affected.

“Hazardous road conditions are currently creating challenges for our crews as they work to make repairs and restore service,” the company said in a statement. “We’ll continue our restoration efforts and keep our customers informed through text messages and continual updates to our website, Facebook and Twitter.”

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Jimmy Orr

Executive Editor

A third-generation Wyomingite, Jimmy Orr is the executive editor and co-founder of Cowboy State Daily.