Highways throughout Wyoming were blocked off Wednesday morning, businesses decided not to open and schools closed in anticipation of a potentially historic cold snap.
But not everyone was off the road.
“It takes a little bit longer,” said Paul Davies of Laramie, an entrepreneur who makes deliveries for Walmart, Instacart and DoorDash.
His business, Paul Does Deliveries, is particularly busy on this cold and snowy morning in the Gem City.
“I turned on my app for Walmart Spark 10 minutes ago, and I already have a delivery,” Davies told Cowboy State Daily.
Davies isn’t the only driver out making the rounds in temperatures, with wind chill, hitting minus 40 degrees and colder. Postal workers, UPS drivers and propane trucks also are out making sure residents are safe, warm and connected.
All About Safety
But even those companies have limitations on how far they’ll go in bad weather.
“We’ll evaluate conditions, and if it’s safe, we’ll deliver,” said Jim Mayer, a spokesperson for UPS. “If it’s not, our drivers will come in off the road, and then we’ll wait for conditions to improve.”
He said that so far, all Wyoming routes are open, but there are a number of zip codes in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota where service is not being offered now.
But UPS has a secret weapon to help make sure packages are delivered on time, despite Mother Nature’s bad days.
“We actually have a team of meteorologists who watch the weather,” said Mayer, “and we make contingency plans to try to minimize the impact.”
Like UPS, administrators at Blakeman Propane also rely on planning ahead to make sure their customers aren’t caught flat-footed in a winter storm like the one blanketing the state.
“We try to plan ahead of time so we’re not running low or late on anybody’s service,” said Will Zilka, compliance officer for Blakeman Propane in Moorcroft. “So, on days like today and tomorrow when it’s particularly gruesome out, maybe it’s not quite as necessary to push our routes.”
Zilka said the company does ask for cooperation from customers, especially those who live in remote locations.
“We have some customers statewide that their access is limited on the best of days,” said Zilka. “So we work with property owners to make sure the pathway is clear for us so we can provide the service that they’re asking for.”
Zilka said Blakeman Propane offers a service to customers to help plan ahead for bad weather.
“Free of charge to our customers, we put satellite monitors on our tanks so we can look in our office and see what your tank is before we leave,” he said. “And you can look it up (online) too, so you don’t even have to trudge through the snow out in your own backyard.”
Davies, who has been a full-time delivery driver for three years, said he’s always prepared for whatever weather may happen.
“You keep your car really warm, and dress warm, and above all, you need to always drive safely,” he said.
Zilka, a retired Wyoming Highway Patrol lieutenant, encourages customers to take a role in their own preparedness.
“If we just prepare a little bit on the front end, it makes life a whole lot easier.”
Because the storm arrived just days before Christmas, Mayer said UPS staffers are busier now than at any other time of the year, working hard to get every last package delivered – even in the snow and cold.
“It’s the busiest time of year, but it’s also the best time of year because we’re delivering joy to customers in Wyoming and the rest of the country, and around the world,” said Mayer. “And the commitment that our drivers and our preloaders and staff show this time of year is really amazing.”
Zilka had high praise for Blakeman Propane employees as well.
“We certainly have some hard-working folks working for us with the idea of providing a service that keeps everybody else safe,” he said.
Davies added that he does feel the love from customers when he’s out delivering in harsh weather in his 2007 Toyota Camry.
“Usually when the roads are really bad, and it’s a pretty cold day out, my tips will be a little bit better than usual,” he said.