Bill Sniffin: Looking Back At 2022 – Politics And Weather Were Two Biggest News Explosions

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By Bill Sniffin, Columnist

When looking back on 2022, two explosions of totally different types dominated the news. 

One was political and happened in the hottest days of August. The second was by Mother Nature, which happened in the coldest days of December. Those were the top two of my 10 top stories of 2022.

In August, Wyoming became the political epicenter of the world as everybody wanted to see how our lone U.S. House representative, Liz Cheney, would fare in her reelection bid when former President Donald Trump had put her in his crosshairs. 

It was an amazing time to be a journalist. We ended up talking to reporters from The New York Times, USA Today, The Guardian out of London, two teams of political TV reporters from Japan, plus was interviewed by the second largest newspaper in Denmark. 

The election was an anticlimax to the big campaign as Liz got buried by Harriet Hageman, Trump’s favored designee. 

This proxy war ended with a whimper rather than a bang. 

More money was spent – by far – than any previous political campaign in Cowboy State history. 

Trump came to Wyoming to campaign for Hageman and it was a packed house at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper. Trump knows how to throw a party. It was part rock concert, part circus. About 10,000 people attended. 

After her defeat, Cheney then promised to continue to campaign against Trump, and it was noticed by Wyoming Republicans that none other than Democrat President Joe Biden called Cheney on election night to console her. Cheney then even campaigned for several Democrats in the November general election. 

Cheney still has friends in Wyoming, but the bulk of them are still mystified by this series of actions she took, starting with voting to impeach Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol. 

To them, she squandered the chance to exert amazing clout for her state by choosing this fight with Trump. 

As an example, more than 200 of her Republican colleagues in the House did not vote to impeach Trump. Some 45 Republican senators also chose that route. Obviously, these 245 national leaders lacked the principles possessed by Liz, who followed her own instincts.

Now that the U.S. House has been taken over by the Republicans, she would have been one of the most powerful politicians in the country. 

Instead, she finds herself in political limbo and Wyoming will be served by a freshman congressperson. We believe Harriet Hageman to be very capable but comparing her clout to what might have been with Cheney, well, what a disappointment.

Polar Express 

The second big news explosion was the weather bomb that buried Wyoming and most of the country just before Christmas.

At my house, the mercury dipped to minus 39. Thankfully, we did not get a wind in Lander. Some parts of the state saw minus 60 wind chill temperatures or colder, threatening man and beast. 

A few days later, the mercury was 43 above, and as I am writing this we are getting a very windy chinook (warm wind) blowing down into our valley from the towering Wind River Mountains. Snow is melting and it is dangerously slick out there for anyone on foot. 

Meteorologist Don Day said this was the worst winter storm in Wyoming in 39 years. I can remember some doozy winters in 1972-73, 1978-79 and 1983. Since then, we have had a wonderful series of open warm and dry winters. 

If you survived this year’s blast intact, this winter was something to experience. It is something to brag about to your grandchildren. You were there when the Snowmageddon or Polar Express or SNOMG Vortex hit Wyoming in 2022 just before Christmas. 

A grim aspect of the weather was the death of an EMT outside of Rawlins and the deaths to two rescuers who drowned in Keyhole Reservoir north of Moorcroft. 

And In Other News

• Tourism is Wyoming’s second largest industry and it took its biggest hit since the 1988 Yellowstone fires. This time, it was intense flooding that washed out roads and made the world’s first national park a dangerous place. More than $1 billion in damage was caused in the park and it even had to close for a while and then limit visitors. It upset the state’s tourism activity and made the summer of 2022 one of hospitality folks will never forget. 

Less than a month prior to the flooding the world celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Great Park. 

• Bears were in the news all spring, summer and fall, but the biggest story was about how two Powell college wrestlers literally grappled with a grizzly and lived to tell about it. They were cut up, but survived by being brave and smart. 

And Then, Culture Wars

• Culture wars were waged in Wyoming when some libraries included books available to youths with sexually graphic content. This pitted folks who saw this as a banning books issue versus people who felt their children were being indoctrinated. This story will continue across the state in 2023.

• A case of how hunters can cross private land was in the news and will be in the courts for some time. Called the “corner-crossing case,” a court decision on this will have huge ramifications for sportsmen and landowners. 

• Wyoming’s dominant Republican Party saw continuous infighting across the state as many of its most conservative members felt that moderate GOP members were RINOs (Republicans in name only). This story will continue ad nauseum.

• Chuck Gray spent a boatload of money and was the upset winner in the secretary of state race. The bulk of the current administrative staff at the SOS office has resigned because Gray was a big advocate of the theory that the 2020 election was rigged across the country. And he did not like the way it was conducted in Wyoming, either.  

• Energy is the state’s biggest industry. Coal, natural gas, oil and uranium are suddenly booming despite predictions of the demise of fossil fuels. Wind energy continues to expand.

• State government is flush with cash, but leaders worry about the future. The upcoming session of the Wyoming Legislature will have to sort all this out. 

There was lots of news in Wyoming in 2022, and these are just a few of the top stories as I recall them. We went into the year with lots of questions and we sure did not see Yellowstone floods or record winter blizzards. 

Thankfully, most of us got through the year. Happy New Year everyone. 

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