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Road Closure

Massive Spring Snowstorm Dumps Six Feet Of Snow On Beartooth Highway

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WYDOT photo, June 3, 2022.
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The most beautiful highway in America is still closed.

A massive spring snowstorm has delayed the opening of the Beartooth Highway — which was dubbed the most beautiful in the U.S. years ago by CBS journalist Charles Kuralt for his “On The Road” series.

The roadway, which links the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park to Red Lodge, Montana, will remain temporarily closed until hazardous winter conditions improve.

“Segments of the highway have 4-6 feet of snow that need to be cleared,” Yellowstone spokesman Morgan Warthin said. “More precipitation is expected over the coming days. Crews have erred on the side of safety and discontinued snow removal until conditions improve.”

The road itself is 68.7 miles of the most rugged country in the region, climbing to a height of 10,947 feet above sea level.

Highway 212 (as the Beartooth Highway is formally designated) generally closes at the beginning of winter, and usually opens at the end of May, thanks to multiple state and federal agencies that work in cooperation to clear the road in the spring. 

“The Wyoming state line is over the top of the mountain,” said Cody Beers with the Wyoming Department of Transportation. “The Montana Department of Transportation opens from the other end, and it’s a big process every spring.”

Beers said it takes one full-time WYDOT employee to monitor conditions throughout the winter, where the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway (Wyoming 296) meets Highway 212. But with the big storm that hit the region last weekend, more crews were called in from WYDOT, MDOT and Yellowstone National Park to clear the road.

“We always want to try to be open by Memorial Day weekend,” Beers said, “but last weekend’s storm kind of changed the game plan.”

The highway is usually the last of the seasonally-closed roads to open near Yellowstone, but Beers said the decision to keep the Beartooth Highway closed this week was primarily due to avalanche danger.

“Right now the reason the Beartooth Highway is not open is because they started having avalanches down on the Montana side toward Red Lodge,” he said. “So Montana DOT pulled out until next week, and Yellowstone pulled out right after they got to Long Lake because of the same issue. So they’re all going to hit it next week, and… hopefully it’ll stay open this time.”

Cooke City, Montana, lies near the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone. Although the unincorporated community boasts just 75 full time residents, it’s a popular destination for tourists in the summer and local snowmobile enthusiasts in the winter.

Because of the recent storm, business in Cooke City has been significantly slower than in the last couple of years, according to Chad Meador, the general manager for the Alpine Motel. Meador said that snowy, wet weather has impacted more than just the road conditions recently.

“We had a power outage for four days, and we finally got it back two days ago,” Meador told Cowboy State Daily. “We had a few guests staying here when the power went out, but it went out in the middle of the night so they were good to check out the next morning. But all the following guests that were coming in for the next three nights, they couldn’t stay with us because you have no heat, you have no power.”

And because there is no cell service at all in Cooke City, Meador said neighbors had to rely on each other to reach the outside world.

“There was one place in town that had a generator, and had Starlink satellite WiFi,” Meador said. “I went up and just borrowed theirs to try to communicate with (guests).  Most of the guests were pretty understanding, and went on to Cody or Gardiner (Montana) or something like that and found a place to stay.”

But this year has seen a significantly higher amount of snowfall than in the last few, according to Meador, who has managed the motel for the last three years. That means that fewer people are staying at the Alpine this spring.

“This is the most impact I’ve seen in the springtime,” he said. “Usually springtime is pretty busy – this year we’ve had a lot of late snow storms.” 

Warthin noted that the Beartooth Highway will reopen to the public as soon as conditions allow.  She urged travelers to check the Montana and Wyoming  departments of transportation websites for road status.

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Trucker Thanks City of Rock Springs For Help During Massive Interstate 80 Road Closure

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The city of Rock Springs was thanked by a veteran trucker for its hospitality during a road closure that forced hundreds of semi-drivers to stay put in the community for more than two days.

The winter storm which caused more than 90 accidents on Interstate 80 two weeks ago brought traffic to a standstill all across Wyoming’s busiest highway.

That meant hundreds of truckers were stuck in Rock Springs waiting for the roads to open.

When that happens it can be chaos or it can be smooth operation.  Thanks to a plan developed by the City of Rock Springs a few years ago to get stranded truckers the food and supplies they need, more often than not, it’s the latter.

Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that an appreciative letter written by a 36-year veteran truck driver thanking the community for its hospitality is great feedback for the many people who band together to help the stranded motorists.

“We have a great group of individuals in emergency management, the fire department, the police department, the city of Rock Springs, and the (Sweetwater) Events Complex folks,” Kaumo said.

The letter, written by Kimberly Davis, said she was grateful to the city for its assistance while she was sidelined for more than two days.

“I just wanted to thank the city for its hospitality,” Davis wrote. “I hope you will pass on my thanks to the folks who brought meals out to the many drivers who were here with me.”

“You have my gratitude and after 36 years in this career, I can say I’ve ever been treated with the care of any community the way I was in your city,” she wrote.

“I will always remember this past weekend and the concerns of your citizens,” she said.

Kaumo said the town was “inundated” by truckers as a result of the storm but with the assistance of the workers from various government agencies, drivers were able to find food, fuel, medical care, and anything else they needed.

“We’re used to road closures and we do everything we can to get information out there so truckers know where to park and where food vendors know where to set-up,” he said.

“When roads are shut down for two to three days at a time, it gets hectic,” he said. “But we’ve got a plan that seems to work pretty well.”

Kaumo said usually there is enough parking space available at the Sweetwater Events Complex to handle the traffic.

In the rare instance where more space is needed, he said the city will find parking spots at a recreation facility and other locations. 

The mayor said the city works closely with the Wyoming Department of Transportation to coordinate when the state agency initiates a “rolling closure”.

This type of road closure is staggered so one community along the highway doesn’t get all of the traffic, which can put a strain on service stations, restaurants, and hotels in communities where the traffic is backed up.

Kaumo said the effort not only builds teamwork across the community but the city’s coffers as well.

“It is good for the community and it generates sales tax which funds city government,” he said.

“We have a great city and we work very well together in crisis situation,” Kaumo said. “We have proven that time and time again.

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WYDOT To Start Repair Work On Collapsed Stretch of Interstate 90

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By Kevin Koile, Sheridan Media

Motorists traveling on I-90 south of Sheridan will notice a lane closure of the westbound lane near mile marker 30. 

The mid-October snow storm, which dropped over ten inches of heavy wet snow, was just a bit too much for a 300 foot section of the right hand travel lane, thus resulting in the loss of roughly 175 feet of shoulder and guardrail.

A common occurrence in Sheridan County, a slope failure happens when the soils, commonly clay, become overly saturated and lose their ‘sticky’ factor and give way to gravitational pull.

Most of these clays are sitting on a shale base which offers little to no resistance for the clay to adhere to.

The soils become too heavy and follow the path of least resistance and fall away from the slope.

In the instance, 150 feet of guardrail and pavement went along with it resulting in the closure of the driving lane until repairs are made.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation Geology team spent a week testing the soils in over a dozen locations on either side of the slide as far down as fifty feet to determine how saturated the soils are throughout the slide area.

This method allows geologists to determine if there is the potential for more sliding to occur in the near future. 

Results indicate the slide has settled and geologists have determined that the best method to repair the slope is to place soil nails into the side of the slope.  

Soil nailing is a remedial construction measure to treat unstable natural soil slopes.

It involves drilling holes for steel bars to be inserted into a slope face which are then grouted in place. Mesh is attached to the bar ends to hold the slope face in position.

Temporary repair work is anticipated to begin by the end of the month. 

The travel lane will remain closed until repairs are completed.

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Interstate 80 Between Cheyenne and Rawlins Closed Due to Weather and Accidents

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Photo credit: Terry Butler

If it doesn’t seem that long ago that Interstate 80 was closed due to inclement weather, it’s because it hasn’t been that long ago. 

Last year, in fact, the state hit a record for the number of times I-80 was closed down due to Mother Nature. 

And she struck again today.

On Sunday afternoon, portions of the most-infamous part of Interstate 80 were closed due to winter-like weather and a series of accidents.

“10 semis and at least five cars and trucks are in a pileup wreck,” Terry Butler wrote on the Facebook page Wyoming Road and Weather Condition Updates. “There are at least 300 semis and vehicles behind them.”

Butler was referring to an accident that occurred east of Cheyenne near Burns.

Here’s the latest:

I-80 between Cheyenne and Rawlins (both directions are closed) and the estimated reopening time is 18-20 hours.

If you are stuck, hopefully you have fuel, warm clothes, boots, Internet access, food, something to drink, seats that fully recline, an iPad, and a Netflix account. 

Ideally, you would be driving in an RV.  That way, you could take a shower, cook a turkey, stretch out on the couch, and watch NFL Red Zone. RV is the way to go.

I-80 eastbound between Creston Junction and Rawlins due to rolling closure. No estimates on that reopening.

I-80 westbound between Pine Bluffs and Cheyenne due to crash. No estimates on reopening time.

US 30/287 between Bosler and Walcott Junction. This is a rough stretch of road weather-wise. If you are stuck here, hunker down. Your estimated reopening time 18-20 hours.

US 287 south of Laramie (estimated reopening time unknown).

The winter storm is impacting travel throughout the region, with strong winds and blowing snow making for very limited visibility.

No unnecessary travel on I-25 or mountain passes like WYO 70 through Battle Pass or WYO 130 through the Snowy Range.

If all of this is making you wonder why Interstate 80 was built where it was, check out this interesting article.

And you can check here for the latest road conditions.

For latest road conditions, go to wyoroad.info, download the 511 app or call 511.

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