By Wendy Corr, Ellen Fike and Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
Travel resumed on most of southeastern Wyoming’s highways on Thursday as a strong winter storm that dropped up to 18 inches of snow on parts of the state loosened its grip.
In the wake of the storm, Wyoming residents braced for brisk winds expected to cause the snow to blow and drift on Friday. However, the winds were also expected to bring warmer temperatures to the state, which shivered through sub-zero readings on Wednesday night.
““Wind is going to be the problem into Friday, but on the upside, it will cause some warmer temperatures,” said Brandon Wills, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. “The southeastern part of the state will have gusty winds overnight Thursday and portions of Friday.”
Snowfall tapered off across the state Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. Accumulations from the storm ranged from 4 to 6 inches in Torrington to 5 to 8 inches in Cheyenne and 18 inches in LaGrange.
Eastern Wyoming from Wheatland to Rawlins was under a high wind warning until Friday, with gusts expected to reach 45 to 50 mph.
But Wills said there is no precipitation in the forecast for foreseeable future.
As the state shook off the impact of the storm, Interstate 80 remained closed Thursday between Cheyenne and Rawlins. Travel was possible from Rawlins to the Utah state line, although the segment of highway across western Wyoming was subject to rolling closures.
Interstate 25, which was closed between Cheyenne and Douglas for most of Wednesday, also opened for travel Thursday.
However, commenters on the “Wyoming Road and Weather Conditions Reports Updates” Facebook page continued to urge drivers to exercise caution in the face of some continuing bad conditions.
One commenter warned of a truck stuck in the wrong lane in a bend in the canyon on Wyoming Highway 230 north of Laramie. Others warned of white-out conditions, poor visibility and icy roads.
In the 24 hours between noon Wednesday and Thursday, the Wyoming Highway Patrol responded to 22 crashes on I80 and I25, two of those involving injuries, according to Sgt. Jeremy Beck.
In addition, Beck said that troopers also helped 92 stranded motorists, including semi-trailers and vehicles that were stuck or slid off the road.
Meanwhile, with a video showing a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper nearly being hit by an out-of-control car on an interstate highway fresh in memory, Wyoming Department of Transportation officials urged drivers to be careful, especially around highway workers.
Slick roads and careless drivers posed threats for highway workers during the storm, said Cody Beers, a senior public relations specialist with WYDOT.
“We’re seeing slick roads, and in some cases, people driving too fast for conditions,” he said.
He noted that because it’s been a while since there’s been a big snow event in many parts of the state, drivers can be out of practice for winter road conditions.
“I think anytime we haven’t had snow for a while, we have to retrain our drivers for winter conditions,” Beers said. “They need to realize that there are people out on the roadways that are trying to do their jobs, such as snow plow drivers, highway troopers, deputy sheriffs, local police, emergency responders, and it’s our number one priority out there to be safe.”
Beers praised the crews who are doing their best to clear the highways.
“Our guys are on top of it,” he said. “And they’re working some overtime, and we’re doing our job.”
Beers reminded motorists to be extra cautious.
“The whole idea is to go to work, get home safe, go to your destination, get home safe, get to your appointment safe,” Beers said. “So when it’s snowing and blowing and it’s icy and slippery, we need to slow down and get safely to our destination. It’s just common sense.”