It seems effortless, like magic in motion.
That’s how it appears watching the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s newest beast of a snow removal machine chewing through huge snowdrifts along state Highways 130 and 70.
WYDOT posted a video of its newest weapon in its war on Wyoming winter this week — a Larue T80 industrial rotary snowblower — which showed up just in time to clear roads in the wake of one of the snowiest winters on record.
“After the snowcats cut the drifts down to 3 to 4 feet above the roadway, our big machines get to go have a little fun,” reads the Facebook post with the video on the WYDOT District 1 page.
The snowblower set the state back an impressive $700,000, and is well worth the price, said Andrea Staley with the WYDOT District 1 office.
“We are so excited to have it in our fleet of vehicles,” Staley told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s something that we've been waiting for for a few years, so it's exciting to actually have it be part of our fleet for this seasonal opening.”
Staley said WYDOT’s crews run a snowcat over the seasonally closed roads, which finished last week, enough so the agency’s snowblowers can start cutting deeper down to the roadway.
“Our crews have been working pretty much from the end of last week to this week,” she said, adding that the fleet’s new star rookie in the lineup has “really been a huge help this season.”
The Best Of The Best
Staley said that in the last few years, getting new equipment has been challenging.
“With COVID, and then there tended to be a lot of equipment shortages and delays in getting equipment,” she said about the delays.
But in early April, the southeast Wyoming district took possession of the creme de la creme of snowblowers — the Larue T80, which is designed for mountain and interstate snow removal operations.
“It’s about 755 horsepower and has a C 18 engine, or an 18.3 Caterpillar engine,” said Staley.
She pointed out that the snow output for WYDOT’s other rotary snowblowers put out about 3,500 to 4,000 tons of snow per hour. The Larue leaves them in the dust.
“The snow output for this is about 5,000 tons per hour,” she said. “So that's a pretty significant jump from some of them.”
Just In Time
Staley said that the agency’s road maintenance staff and mechanics also had to have special training to run the Larue, which the state took possession of in early April.
“We had some people from La Rue come and do a pretty intensive training on the rotary itself so everyone was able to feel comfortable using it for the snow season,” she said.
And the machine arrived just in time to blow through the up to 15 feet of snow that had piled up over the 12-mile stretch of Highway 130 over the Snowy Range, which WYDOT closes each winter.
“Twelve miles doesn't seem that long, but when the drifts are 15 feet, it does take some time to open it,” said Staley.
She said the Larue is stationed in Rawlins, which is a perfect position to dispatch to both the Snowy Range portion of Highway 130 starting near Saratoga and the section of Highway 70 over the Sierra Madres between Baggs and Encampment.
“So it will help for both of our seasonal openings, which is going to be pretty exciting,” Staley said.