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Where the Winds Blew the Hardest in Wyoming

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There are places in Wyoming that lifelong residents would have never heard of except for the wind.

These unknown places — which few people can place on a map — are known for one thing: the wind.

The wind puts these places on the map.

Ask the average person in Wyoming where Pumpkin Vine is. 

The only time it makes the news is when the wind is blowing at hurricane force conditions or close to it.

Pumpkin Vine is barely worth mentioning today as it didn’t get close to the top wind speed — at all — as it only clocked a gust of 60 mph. For Pumpkin Vine, that’s calm. That’s boring. That’s stagnant.

The gold medal for wind on Monday goes to Arlington, Wyoming. This town is an overachiever as it regularly comes to the top of the list for windy locations.

It’s the Tom Brady of wind.

Today’s top wind speed?  91 mph.

So almost a Category 2.

Although it was windy today, if no locations in Wyoming reach Category 3 status, it can’t be called something out of the ordinary. It’s just breezy.

If it’s Category 3, we should stop and salute. That’s because the wind is between 111 – 129.  Today, not even 100. So quit your complaining.

Here’s the top 10 for Monday.

NW Arlington: 91 mph
NW Natural Fort: 89 mph
Chief Joseph Highway: 88 mph
Cody: 84 mph
Bordeaux: 79 mph
Red Canyon South Pass: 75 mph
Sherws (whatever that is): 74 mph
Federal: 73 mph
Park County Sheriff Office: 73 mph
Another NW Arlington: 71 mph

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192 New Wind Turbines Fully Operational in Converse County

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By Cinthia Stimson, Douglas Budget

DOUGLAS — Wind turbines – majestic, metallic, monolithic giants – stand in intermittent long lines across the bare, winter windswept Wyoming landscape just a few miles outside of Douglas.

There are a lot of them – 192, to be exact – changing the usual landscape visuals folks are used to seeing between WYO59 and WYO93. 

WYO 59 cuts through the middle of the 499-foot tall towers, their blades slowly, methodically rotating as they create 533 megawatts of wind generated electricity.

NextEra Energy Resources’ $650 million Cedar Springs Wind Farm, phases I, II and III – are online and fully operational as of Dec. 11, according to NextEra’s Project Manager Ryan Fitzpatrick. 

The company broke ground on the project in October 2019, and had cited Dec. 31 as their completion date. 

“We have achieved commercial operation at Cedar Springs. We were able to finish the final turbines last Friday,” Fitzpatrick said.

As well as changing the lay of the land along the turbines’ route, people may also notice the towers’ safety lights on at night. 

However, that’s about to change, Fitzpatrick said, as the Aviation Detection Lighting System (ADLS) installed on the turbines essentially have to learn when not to go on for every little movement the radar detects. 

“We installed five radars out there around the project which detect aircraft with three miles of the boundary. Once the system is normalized, the lights will only come on when aircraft are detected,” he said.

“The radar detects all kinds of movement right now – highway (traffic), trains, birds, livestock. Any type of movement like that triggers the lights. They’ll mask certain movements but sometimes it will take several months to normalize,” Fitzpatrick said.

“Some sites are faster, but when all of this is said and done, the lights will be off more than on, less than 10% of the night. With the ADLS systems installed we are required to have a light on every turbine. That’s quite a few lights, 192 of them,” he said. 

The Cedar Springs project employed about 400 workers during the project’s construction period and expect to now employ 20 permanent, full time wind technicians. 

NextEra Energy Resources owns CS 1 and 3, while PacifiCorp now owns and operates CS 2, Fitzpatrick said. 

Converse County has benefitted from having Cedar Springs built within its boundaries, with tax revenues from the wind farm helping offset the bust of the oil economy and effects of the coronavirus pandemic hitting at the same time. 

“This is a $650 million investment in the county. It will generate $115 million in property taxes and $90 million in landowner payments during its life. Converse County and its people have been great to us. This has been a great place for business,” Fitzpatrick said. 

While the massive construction push at Cedar Springs is now over, work is still ongoing as the company concentrates on reclamation and wrapping up the project’s last threads. 

“It was a large project. We’re proud to get it done on time, especially with the difficult economic times this year and the ongoing pandemic.

“Counties with wind energy projects this year are seeing sales tax revenue which is very helpful to (them). Certainly it’s been a good year for us, but helping the communities weather the economic storm this year . . . it feels good to help. 

“Construction on this project may be over, but our relationship with Converse County is just beginning. We will be here for the next 30 years or longer. We’re hoping for an even larger presence in the county with more development and future commercial opportunities, as well as continuing to expand,” Fitzpatrick said. 

Concerns do arise regarding what to do with blades once their life spans have expired. 

Fitzpatrick said NextEra has teams dedicated to finding methods of recycling turbine components to avoid putting any parts or pieces into landfills. 

“We’re working locally on some pretty creative ways to recycle blades and turbine components. We’re finding alternate uses and the best ways to recycle when the operational life is complete,” he said. 

For now, take a drive north on HWY59 and witness Wyoming’s wind power the Cedar Springs turbines, turning a free commodity into electricity.

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Semi Flips On Wyoming Interstate; Drivers Lose Their Minds

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A video posted to Facebook over the weekend shows why it’s important to heed the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s warnings about not driving during high wind warnings.

Steve LaFave, a Cheyenne resident, posted a video to his account on Sunday, after he and a friend drove behind multiple semi-trailers during a high wind warning this weekend.

The two appear to be driving south on Interstate 25, heading into Colorado.

During the two-minute and sometimes expletive-filled video, the men are following behind one particular truck that continues to try and resist the gale-force winds attempting to push it off the road.

Instead of taking the hint and pulling over, the driver continues to fight against nature, the battle finally culminating in the truck flipping over on the interstate. Another semi driving not far behind the fallen truck has to maneuver quickly to avoid hitting it.

“It’s like he’s oblivious too,” the guys say before the truck flips. “What a [expletive] idiot. I’m driving around this [expletive], I ain’t waiting around for this [expletive].”

The men do stop to check on the driver, but the video ends before there was any word from him.

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Sorry, Wyoming’s Horrible Winds Are Not Uncommon For This Time of Year

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It’s a little too windy for October, isn’t it?

Unless you really like the wind, then the answer is yes. 

But when you look at the data, the hurricane force gusts that much of Wyoming has been experiencing are sadly not uncommon for October.

That being said, the 101 mph gust recorded at a place aptly called Mt. Coffin in Lincoln County does seem a little extreme.

It really shouldn’t be in the conversation though. That’s what Wyoming’s weatherman Don Day told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

“That’s because it was a mountaintop wind,” Day said. “It’s almost 11,000 feet and not representative of wind on the plains.”

Using Day’s restrictions, the 84 mph gust at Fort Washakie does count. As does the 83 mph wind gust at Arlington. And even the relatively wimpy 71 mph gust at the Cheyenne airport counts.

Sadly, it’s not unusual for this time of year.  We might think it’s unusual because it’s happening now and our memories really aren’t very good.

“October to April is our windy season and strong winds like yesterday happen in October more than you think,” Day said. 

It’s because the seasons are changing and when that happens, we experience an increase in strength of jet stream winds aloft and that’s when we get our high wind events, Day explained.

There’s got to be a way to make lemonade out of the lemons though, right?Not really.

You can try kite-flying. But you’ll never see your kite again, Day said.

Well, at least we can harness the excess wind and generate wind-power.

Nope. It’s even too windy to generate wind-power, he said.

If you want to blame anyone, you can blame Day. We do. We’re well aware that this is killing the messenger, but we don’t mind.

Truth be told, however, the problem is where the state is located.

Wyoming is in the mid-latitudes (half way between the North Pole and the equator), Day explained, and from fall to spring the jet stream is either overhead or nearby and we have strong winds aloft (which means strong wind events as Day mentioned earlier).

Second, Wyoming’s high elevation puts us closer to those jet stream winds.

Third, and this is where Day really gets interesting:

If you look at a map of North America, the largest gaps between mountains in the Rockies are in Wyoming, from the end of Snowy Range to the tip of the Wind Rivers and between Casper Mountain and the Bighorns.

“The winds get squeezed through the gaps and that accelerates the wind,” he explained “Like putting your thumb over a garden hose.”

“So, there are parts of Wyoming where the wind is accelerated because of the interaction with the terrain (mountains and mountain gaps) and the strong winds aloft,” Day said.  

“The best example of this is I-80 around Arlington/Elk Mountain and I-25 at Colorado border and I-25 south of Wheatland,” he said.

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