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Shoshone Forest Campgrounds, Roads Closed By Flooding

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21077

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wendy@CowboyStateDaily.com

The precipitation, snowmelt, and runoff that caused devastation in Yellowstone National Park and the Custer-Gallatin National Forest earlier this week are also affecting northern portions of the Shoshone National Forest. 

Kristie Thompson, public affairs officer for the Shoshone National Forest in Cody, told Cowboy State Daily that several campgrounds, roads and trails were closed due to flooding.

“We did have a few different campgrounds that we had to move campers out of, as well as some of our own staff,” Thompson said. 

She explained that campers, volunteers and U.S. Forest Service staff were removed from the Big Game Campground, the Wapiti Campground and the Clearwater Campground, all located on the highway between Cody and Yellowstone National Park.

“Some left on their own, others had to be assisted out, but we were able to safely remove everyone,” Thompson said. 

She added that visitors to the northern part of the Forest, however, should be aware that the weather event that caused this week’s flooding might not be over.

“We know that the water could go up again, because we have some very hot temperatures coming at the end of this week,” Thompson noted. “And we still have good snow up in the mountains. So we could have another – hopefully not as large – but we could have some more flooding happen this weekend. And if that happens we don’t want anyone stuck in those campgrounds. So for now, campgrounds are staying closed.”

Thompson said that Wapiti, Clarks Fork, and Greybull District Ranger Casey McQuiston wants to keep as many areas open to the public as possible, urging visitors to use their best judgment if they plan to visit the forest.

“We know that there are a lot of people who had planned trips to the Greater Yellowstone area and are now having to adjust itineraries because of closures,” said McQuiston, pointing out that the Shoshone National Forest remains open to visitors.

“The Washakie and Wind River Ranger districts of the Shoshone National Forest have not been as impacted as the northern portion of the Shoshone, and there are wonderful recreational opportunities on that end of the Shoshone as well,” McQuiston added.

Thompson said there are four campgrounds currently still open in the Wapiti District and one more will open at the beginning of July. 

“The forest itself does not have any damage to any developed recreation sites,” Thompson said, with the exception of the three campgrounds that are experiencing flooding. “So those all still exist for people to go enjoy. We do understand that there are some washouts that are unsafe for people to cross, so we don’t want people to go through areas that are not safe for them to go out and come back. But there is still a huge amount of the forest available for recreation.”

Thompson said Shoshone National Forest staff will continue to evaluate the situation and will respond to changing conditions, getting information out to the public as soon as possible. Visitors should plan ahead and visit the Shoshone National Forest website (http://www.fs.usda.gov/shoshone) and Facebook page (US Forest Service – Shoshone National Forest) for updates on any areas that may be closed or impacted.

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Don Day: Worst Likely Over For Yellowstone Flooding, But Still A Chance This Weekend

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The worst of the flooding in the Yellowstone National Park area may be over, but weekend weather could still pose a threat for continued problems, Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day said Wednesday.

There will be some warmer temperatures in the Yellowstone area this weekend, as well as possible thunderstorms, creating a risk of additional flooding by rivers already swollen by last weekend’s torrential rains, he said.

“However, the multi-day rains that happened this past weekend will not return through this coming weekend, so in a nutshell, the biggest risk for more flooding will be from those scattered thunderstorms,” he said. “But the big, widespread rains won’t be there through Sunday.”

He said he is concerned flooding could occur as long as river levels are still elevated and there is still snow to melt.

“The next few weeks will need to be watched very carefully,” he said. “You always want to be on the lookout for the combination of another really warm day and a lot of rain.”

Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said about 12 inches of unmelted snow remains in some areas in and around Yellowstone.

Celia Hensley, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Riverton, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that over a 24-hour period from Sunday to Monday, around 2 inches of rain fell in and around the park.

“All of that rain on top of already high rivers is what ultimately caused the flooding,” she said.

Day did note that while Monday’s flooding was a historic event, he would not necessarily say it had never happened before.

“The likelihood of an event like this happening in prior historical times is extremely high,” Day said. “But we definitely haven’t seen anything like this in two and a half to three generations.”

The floods Monday were the result of rivers swollen to record levels by torrential rains falling on melting snow. The flooding forced the park’s closure and evacuation as it resulted in rockslides, mudslides and collapsed roads and damaged the park’s infrastructure.

There is no word yet on when the park will reopen to inbound traffic, but Superintendent Cam Sholly said on Tuesday that he hoped at least the park’s southern portion would reopen by next week.

“We will not know exactly what the timelines are, what the costs are or any of that information until we get teams on the ground who can actually assess the situation,” Sholly said.

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Northern Loop Of Yellowstone Road Closed For Summer, Says Superintendent

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20995

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The northern loop of Yellowstone National Park will be closed for “an extensive time” due to damages caused by historic flooding, the park’s superintendent said Tuesday.

Cam Sholly, speaking during a news conference Tuesday, told the more than 100 reporters listening in that at least one road in the park, the northern route linking the Montana communities of Gardiner and Cooke City, will probably be closed for the rest of the season.

The timeline for opening the rest of the park will depend entirely on what park officials find when they are able to enter the park and examine the damage done by Sunday and Monday’s flooding.

“We will not know exactly what the timelines are, what the costs are or any of that information until we get teams on the ground who can actually assess the situation,” Sholly said.

From 2 to 3 inches of rain fell on the park on Sunday and Monday, speeding the melt of snow left by a weekend blizzard and swelling rivers to record levels.



Massive Damage

The flooding forced the closure and evacuation of the park and washed away numerous roads and “hundreds” of bridges used in the park’s trail system, Sholly said.

He added the damage as most severe in the park’s northern loop.

“The [damage] to the northern loop is going to be more extensive and require condition and damage assessments that need to be done to figure out what the plan is there for a reconstruction strategy,” Sholly said.

Sholly said he hoped to reopen the park’s southern loop within a week or less, but added that decision would also depend on an assessment of the situation.

He added is working with gateway communities to determine when the southern loop can best be opened.

Southern Entrance

However, he did note during the conference that the southern portion of the park could not accommodate all of Yellowstone’s visitors, which can amount to 1 million or more per month in the summer.

This could mean that when the park does reopen, timed visitations or reservations might be implemented to try to handle the influx of visitors, but Sholly was not firm on this.

“We do know that half the park cannot accommodate all of the visitation,” he said.

Sholly said Monday’s closure was the first caused by flooding, although he noted the park was completely closed two years ago during the COVID pandemic.

Sholly said he did not know the exact number of visitors who had to be removed from the park on Monday, but he estimated it was somewhere around 10,000 people. Another several thousand were also removed from Gardiner.

However, this did not mean everyone left the park.

There were still around a dozen backcountry campers inside of Yellowstone as of Tuesday afternoon, but Sholly said park officials have been in regular contact with the recreationists.

“We know they’re safe and they’re making their way out of the park,” Sholly said. “They had more time to get out compared to frontcountry visitors and cars.”

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Search For Missing Indiana Man In Cody Called Off Due To Flooding

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20970

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The search for a missing Indiana man whose vehicle was last seen in Park County has been suspended due to the unprecedented flooding in the area, the sheriff’s department announced late Monday.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office suspended the search for Lance Daghy on Saturday out of concern for the searchers’ safety because of high water levels in the Sunlight Bridge area, where Daghy’s vehicle was found last week.

The sheriff’s office said that the situation would be monitored and re-evaluated until the area was again safe for search attempts to continue.

Historic floods have hit northwestern Wyoming this week, with Yellowstone National Park even closing to all visitors until at least Wednesday due to rockslides, road damage and other flood-related issues.

Rain had been falling on the area for several consecutive days, speeding the melt of snow left by a weekend blizzard and boosting river levels to depths not seen for decades.

Daghy was reported missing from Hobart, Indiana, last week. On Thursday afternoon, the Park County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a 2018 red Jeep Wrangler with an Indiana registration being parked near the Sunlight Creek Bridge for a couple of days with no one around.

Investigators determined that the vehicle, which is registered to Daghy, had been in the area since June 5.

Daghy is described as a white man standing 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighing 130 pounds. He has blue eyes and sandy blonde hair.

According to a social media post by Ashlyn Daghy, Lance Daghy’s daughter, the man has been missing from Hobart since June 2.

“He left with no cell phone, any belongings, or mention of where he was going – this is completely out of his character,” she wrote. “He has no social media. We are unsure if he is still in the area. He is unarmed and not dangerous.”

Ashlyn Daghy declined an interview with Cowboy State Daily on Friday, saying it was not an appropriate time to make a lengthy comment.

“We are just hoping for a safe return at this point,” she said.

It was not known whether the missing man had the appropriate equipment and supplies for a multi-day wilderness excursion.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office reported Daghy has no real backpacking or camping experience and no known ties to the area.

The sheriff’s office is asking anyone with knowledge about Daghy to call 307-527-8700 or 307-754-8700.

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Yellowstone Closed Through Wednesday Due To Massive Rockslides, Flooding

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20916

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

All entrances to Yellowstone National Park were closed Monday and would be through at least Wednesday as heavy rain falling on melting snow caused significant flooding and road damage, park officials announced.

Calling it “extremely hazardous conditions,” authorities evacuated the northern portion of the park due to flooding, rockslides and mudslides caused by record rainfall.

Park officials announced on Monday afternoon that the park would be closed to visitors until at least Wednesday.

“Red Lodge, Montana, is a river right now and we have some flooding on the west of Cody,” Cody Beers, a Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman, told Cowboy State Daily. “I’ve never heard of Yellowstone closing the entire park to inbound traffic, though.”

Footage from the storms showed roads collapsing into raging rivers and logs piled high on the shores.



The electricity was out in several areas of the park as of Monday morning.

All inbound traffic to the park was halted until conditions stabilized and park officials could assess damage to the roads, bridges and other facilities. The visitors turned away included those with lodging and camping reservations.

Many of the park roads could be closed for an extended period of time, according to park officials.

“It’s just been multiple days of rain up in this area, plus we had snow on Memorial Day weekend,” Beers said. “It’s a rare day when we have water levels that reached the bottom of our bridges.”

Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day said flood advisories surround Yellowstone because of the “huge amount of snow” coupled with the significant rain.

“I don’t think anyone thought the runoff would be as big as this,” he said.

Beers said WYDOT will continue to monitor the weather events in the northwestern portion of the state and how they might affect roads.

He recommended anyone traveling toward Yellowstone wait a day or two for officials to figure out how long certain roads will be closed and whether the rainfall in the area will continue.

“Be careful out there, because Mother Nature’s fury is showing itself right now,” Beers said.

Yellowstone superintendent Cam Sholly said on Monday that staff’s first priority was to evacuate the northern section of the park, where there were multiple road and bridge failures, mudslides and other issues.

“The community of Gardiner is currently isolated, and we are working with the county and State of Montana to provide necessary support to residents, who are currently without water and power in some areas,” Sholly said. “Due to predictions of higher flood levels in areas of the park’s southern loop, in addition to concerns with water and wastewater systems, we will begin to move visitors in the southern loop out of the park later today in coordination with our in-park business partners.”

Sholly said it was likely the northern loop of the park would be closed for a substantial amount of time.

“I appreciate the efforts of the Yellowstone team and partners to safely evacuate areas of the park and of our gateway community partners who are helping us through this major event,” he said. “We appreciate the support offered by the Department of Interior, National Park Service and the Montana and Wyoming governors.”



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A Return To Summer: Tornadoes, Funnel Clouds, Hail, 90 Degree Temps, And Snow

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Summer weather is back in Wyoming as evidenced by Tuesday’s weather. It was nice and springy in some areas while other parts of experienced a bit more excitement like tornadoes, funnel clouds, and hail.

The National Weather Service of Cheyenne sent out a note on Wednesday morning wondering if anyone had more information about a funnel cloud spotted just east of Lusk.

“Quite the capture!” they wrote of the “brief tornado” which was taken near Duck Creek Ranch just north of Highway 20 at around 2:30pm.

The photo was taken by Garrett Wurdeman and shared with KNEB-TV in Nebraska.

Tornado Chaser Reed Timmer was paying attention to this twister. He had high regard for it.

“Possible TOTY (tornado of the year) east of Lusk, WY yesterday,” Timmer tweeted. “Would have been a solo intercept on Hwy 20 near the historical site. Important to chase the backdoor targets during high plains insanity.”

Timmer did not explain why the tornado could be so highly valued.

The National Weather Service officially declared it a EF 1. That’s the second to the smallest of the “ranked tornadoes.” Still nothing to sneeze at though.

These EF 1s have winds from 86 – 110mph. Some may say that it would be like living in Clark, Wyoming.



There was some real damage associated with this tornado, however.

Fencing was blown down, roofs were torn off, trees were uprooted,

“The more impressive damage was a barn roof and partial second level were torn off and thrown 50 to 100 yards to the southeast,” the weather service said.


Photo by Kelle Kristeen Moore

Weather spotter, Kelle Kristeen Moore, produced a photo of another funnel cloud taken the day before 32 miles northeast of Douglas (above).

Not to be outdone, the Thermopolis Independent Record shared a photo of a funnel cloud five miles north of the town taken at 11:30 am on Wednesday (below).


Photo by Lara Love, Thermopolis Record

But the real weather on Wednesday happened east of Wyoming in Sidney, Nebraska.  A severe storm dropped more than 10 inches of hail in the community. 

According to News Channel Nebraska, the storm lasted four hours and produced ping pong sized hail in numerous towns.



Other Nebraska communities received up to two inches of rain.

In Wyoming, Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day is predicting 90 degree temperatures in the southern and central parts of the state by this weekend and then snow is actually in the forecast.

What Day is calling an “impressive spring storm” will bring wintry-like weather to higher elevations in some parts of the state.

“Spring is still fighting,” Day said. “We are going to do a complete reverse. We have a big summer warmup and then spring comes back and says I’m not done with you yet.”

Somewhat apologetically, Day said he hated to mention the word but snow was a possibility on Monday night and Tuesday in the higher elevations of Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado.

“Nothing like what we had over Memorial Day weekend but a mid-June snowfall in the highest elevations can’t be ruled out,” he said. “This front is really impressive.”

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Weather Service Got This One Right! Snowstorm That Dumped 3 Feet In NW Wyo Was Predicted

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Call it one of those cases where the weatherman got one right.

The major winter storm that left dozens of motorists stranded in northwest Wyoming on Monday did not come as a surprise, according to a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Riverton.

However, despite winter storm advisories warning of snowfall of up to 2 feet in the area, drivers found themselves trapped on mountain roadways of the Bighorn Basin.

“We’ve been anticipating this storm system for, like, five to seven days,” Brett McDonald told Cowboy State Daily. “Saturday afternoon at about 2:30 (p.m.) is when the winter storm warning was issued for the Absarokas. And in that, we specifically mentioned total snow accumulations of 1 to 2 feet with potentially higher amounts on the southern half of the Absarokas.”

The Wyoming Department of Transportation webcam on the Chief Joseph Highway northwest of Cody caught several cars lined up in the snow, waiting for a WYDOT loader to clear the road.

WYDOT spokesperson Cody Beers told Cowboy State Daily that accumulations reached 2 to 3 feet on Dead Indian Pass.

“In addition to the people stuck at the top of Dead Indian Pass, there were 3 to 4 others stuck on the switchbacks on the west side of the pass,” Beers said. “Everybody stuck on the road was out of there safely by mid-afternoon (Monday).”



While many Cody area residents reported being stranded for more than 24 hours in the Sunlight Basin near Crandall on the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, the snowstorm didn’t just block traffic from the west. The Bighorn Mountains received significant snowfall, resulting in the closure of U.S. Highway 14A over the northern part of the range.

Brent Bien, who has been on the campaign trail as a gubernatorial candidate, was on his way to Cody to give the keynote speech for the Memorial Day service at the Wyoming State Veterans Memorial when he was delayed as he stopped to help a stranded motorist.

“I knew the weather was going to be bad up there over the Bighorns, so typically I get myself about four hours to get over to Cody,” Bien told Cowboy State Daily. “We came over kind of a rise (near Antelope Butte Ski Area), and it was snowing like crazy. I’d say there was probably at least at least 18 inches of snow up there. And I see right in the middle of the road there was a minivan that was just turned sideways.”

The driver and passenger of the van were an older couple from out-of-state, Bien said, who were not prepared for the spring storm.

“Another fellow in a pickup truck came from the other side, opposite of me, and we had to actually turn the minivan 180 degrees,” he said, “because once we got him oriented he couldn’t get up the hill, the roads were really slippery.”

After that 45 minute delay, Bien said he and his wife, Sue, were able to get to Cody just in time for the Memorial Day ceremony.

“When we drove back over (after the ceremony), it was snowing pretty hard up there again,” he said.

The storm, which brought heavy, wet snow to the mountains, also resulted in significant rain at lower elevations in the central part of the state.

“Lots of bowling ball-sized rocks fell all day on US14/16/20 (west of Cody),” said Beers, who praised the crews who kept the highway cleared. “All in all, great work by Cody maintenance!”

Yellowstone National Park received a decent snowfall, according to spokeswoman Linda Veress – but to her knowledge, no one was in need of rescue. Veress took the opportunity to remind visitors to be prepared for uncertain springtime weather.

“It’s springtime in the mountains, and the weather can be so variable that it’s really wise to check the forecast in advance of their visit, and just come prepared,” Veress told Cowboy State Daily. “Usually that means knowing what the road status is, what their weather forecast is, and then just bringing appropriate gear and clothing.”

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Massive Storm Dumps 3 Feet Of Snow In Northwest Wyo; Dozens Of Travelers Rescued

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WYDOT webcam screenshot
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A major spring snow storm dumped more than 3 feet of snow on northwest Wyoming over the Memorial Day weekend, stranding dozens of travelers on the Chief Joseph Highway.

Dozens of people caught in the storm that closed Wyoming Highway 296, which connects Cody to Cooke City, Montana, and the Beartooth Highway, had to be rescued by Department of Transportation personnel, according to Cody Beers, a department public relations specialist.

“There were vehicles blocked there last night and spun out on the road,” Beers told Cowboy State Daily midday Monday. “There’s at least two feet of snow up on (Dead Indian Pass) and there was a pretty good line of cars, 10 to 12 cars backed up.”

To make matters worse, Beers said a pickup with a camper in the back had spun out, blocking the road for oncoming traffic.



As of late Monday morning, however, Beers said a WYDOT loader had arrived and was clearing the road so vehicles could pass.

“He’s been digging a trail down through the road,” he said, “and I’m sure he’s going to go clear to the bottom and see if there’s other people spun out on the switchbacks on the backside of Dead Indian (Pass).”

Additionally, Beers told Cowboy State Daily a power line had come down on the highway due to the heavy, wet snow, creating dangerous sparks. 

“They had to wait for Rocky Mountain Power to remove the line,” he said, “So (snow removal crews are) trying to catch up now.”

The National Weather Service and Cowboy State Daily’s Don Day had predicted a major winter storm for the state’s northern and central mountains.

“There were warnings put out for 1 to 2 feet in the mountains and it looks like the National Weather Service hit a bullseye,” Beers said, “because it’s deep wet, heavy snow.

“I mean, it’s multimillion dollar snow right now for our farmlands and our mountains,” he continued, “but it comes on a holiday weekend when a lot of people are out there camping, weather forecast be damned.”

Beers urged people to stay off the highways if possible.

“I’m sure people made the decision to try to get out of (the mountains), and then it only took one vehicle to get stopped, to stop the entire convoy of vehicles coming out,” he said.

Chief Joseph was only one of the highways closed due to weather this weekend. Sylvan Pass closed at 6:30 a.m. Monday, cutting off the only access to Yellowstone from the East Gate; U.S Highway 14A was closed from Lovell to Dayton over the Bighorn Mountains, and Beartooth Pass, which was scheduled to open for the season this weekend, remained closed due to the winter storm.

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Don Day: “This Ain’t The Last Snowstorm This Season In Wyoming”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A snowstorm and cold front expected to hit southeastern Wyoming this weekend probably will not be the final blast of wintry weather for the season, according to Cowboy State Daily Meteorologist Don Day.

Day said Memorial Day weekend would have to come and go before Wyoming residents would be out of the woods when it comes to wintry weather, at least until the fall.

“If you’d asked me a week ago, I’d have said we were probably done with the hard freezes, but there’s another cold front coming in eight or nine days from now too,” Day said. “We’re near the end, but I’m not calling it done after this weekend.”

Thankfully, the snow won’t be too terrible this weekend, although Laramie and Rawlins will likely be hit the hardest by the storm, Day said.

Saratoga, Rawlins and Laramie will likely see “several” inches of snow over the next 36 hours, which will make travel on Interstate 80 difficult given slushy and icy conditions mixed with poor visibility. The mountainous areas in southeastern Wyoming will see anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of snow in the next few days Day said.

Day noted that Cheyenne is on a “precipice” of the snowstorm, meaning that if the storm shifts either north or south just a bit, there will be a difference in what the city sees in terms of snow.

However, Day did say the city likely will not be affected by snow as to cities like Laramie and Saratoga. Worst-case scenarios called for Cheyenne to receive 3 to 4 inches of snow.

“It’ll be a nice, wet storm in terms of bringing us water,” Day said.

There will be freezing temperatures on Thursday night through Friday, so Day warned anyone who might have gotten excited and planted tomatoes or flowers recently to get them covered to avoid death by frost.

“I’m going to have to go into witness protection after all of this,” Day joked.

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Gillette Slammed With 19 Inches Of Snow Over Weekend; 2nd Highest Snowfall Record

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Photo by Drea Hespen
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Northeastern Wyoming was pummeled by a strong winter storm over the weekend, with Campbell County receiving a near-record 19 inches of snow between Saturday and Sunday.

The 19-inch snowfall over the two-day period was the second-highest amount of snowfall the city has seen in the 120 years the weather service has been monitoring the area, according to the National Weather Service office in Rapid City, South Dakota. The record for the most snow to fall within a two-day period in Gillette was 21 inches over April 30 and May 1, 1967.

Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day said that while the snowstorm was rough on residents in the short-term, it was ultimately a good thing for the area, which is in a severe drought.

“This was the most significant storm to hit northeastern Wyoming in months,” he said. “Most of the reports I’m seeing show the northeastern counties getting anywhere from 1 inch to 3 inches of water from the snowfall, which is huge. Some of these places average 15 to 16 inches (of precipitation) a year and with one storm, they saw maybe a quarter of their annual precipitation.”

While Day said he believed this would be the last major blizzard the area, and state, would see for the season, he could not rule out large amount of snow still falling between now and mid-May.

“Is this the last chance for a blizzard threat? Probably. Is this the last chance for a big snow? Probably not,” he said. “We have to get through the next three weeks before we’re out of the woods just yet.”

Campbell County resident Acacia Acord said the storm was a double-edged sword for the rural community.

While the moisture was “sorely” needed, she added that it came at a cost — the deaths of several calves on her ranch. She was unsure of the final count of livestock lost due to the storm.

“The immediate damages have shown their ugly head in the form of finding calves pastured close to our houses who froze or were suffocated by the snow, but we may not know the total number of losses until later,” she said. “This will come when the ground is dry or frozen enough to make it deeper into other pastures. We can only hope for more stable temperatures in order to stave off any sickness a roller coaster of weather can trigger in cattle.”

However, she did point out that the snowstorm did bring some good news. She said she believed the heavy, wet snow would give pastures enough moisture grow grass this spring.

“With two dry summers and winters behind us, this year could be a tipping point for many ranchers that have managed to hang on this long,” Acord said. “Dry pastures not only mean no grass but also no hay crop, leading local ranchers to buy from neighboring, or further away, areas and deal with soaring feed costs, plus rapidly increasing fuel expenses to get that feed where it needs to be.”

Gillette resident Drea Hespen told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that she took advantage of the snowy weekend, something she has not been able to do in several years after moving to California for a time.

“Believe it or not, I left Napa Valley, California, early to make it home just before the weather hit this weekend,” she said. “I was able to have fun in the snow and simply appreciate the beauty of its white sparkle and picture-worthy paintings, when the wind isn’t blowing 90 mph.”

Over the weekend, Hespen played with her dogs in the snow and even built an impressive snowman, known as “Buff Frosty.”

But she also knew that while she was out having a great time in the snow, ranchers in the area, like Acord, were struggling with the late spring blizzard.

“Though there is so much to be thankful for, I would be shocked if there is a rancher out there that did not lose one calf, cow, foal, sheep or any other living creature to this storm,” Hespen said. “Ranching is not for the faint of heart. You ranchers have my utmost respect. I’ve been there and done that and it’s no cake walk, yet you choose to do it every day. I commend you.”

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Northern Lights May Reappear In Wyoming On Friday

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Photo by: James Ingram
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A rare sighting of the aurora borealis this week in Wyoming has stirred up some excitement for stargazers. 

But if you missed the Northern lights Wednesday night, you may have another chance Friday or Saturday.

Those who stayed up gazing at the night sky on Wednesday were awarded for their patience by the red and green mists in the atmosphere often referred to as the Northern Lights.

And meteorologist Don Day explained that there may be another chance to catch them this week, as the solar storm that causes the phenomenon isn’t over just yet.

“This is a totally natural phenomenon that comes and goes in terms of strength and intensity throughout the course of the year, but also is directly related to solar activity,” he told Cowboy State Daily. 

Day predicted that at the time the next aurora borealis becomes visible, skies should be clear, but viewers may have to stay up pretty late to catch them.

“The coronal mass ejection will probably return sometime during the early hours of April 2, so that would mean Friday night, Saturday morning,” he said. “For (Friday) night and Saturday morning, I am expecting less clouds. So, there’s no guarantee, but I would say that the chances of them occurring again in Wyoming Friday night, there’s a fairly good chance.”

Every 11 Years

Day explained that every 11 years or so, the cycle of solar activity increases, causing the sun to shoot off flares that cause waves of energy to shoot toward the earth. 

If those waves intersect with the earth’s orbit at just the right time, the ethereal waves of color known as aurora borealis appear.

“In the last year and a half, we have gone into our new solar cycle,” Day said. “And so what has happened is, we’re starting to see more sunspots and they’re getting more active, and we’re getting more and more solar flares.”

Increased solar activity doesn’t just make for pretty pictures, though – it can actually disrupt electronic activity here on Earth. 

Disrupt Electronic Activity

More than 150 years ago, an intense geomagnetic storm caused by solar activity took out telegraph systems across North America and Europe and some operators even received electric shocks. 

In March 1989, a solar storm caused power failures in Canada. And a Halloween storm in 2003 disrupted aviation for over a day because planes couldn’t be accurately tracked.

As recently as February of this year, SpaceX lost more than 40 satellites due to a giant solar storm, impacting customers of the Starlink internet service.

But solar storms that strong are unusual, according to Day. What is more common is the interaction of this highly charged field of energy with the Earth’s magnetosphere and its upper atmosphere. 

“There’s a complex series of reactions that go on that create these visual displays that can be really awesome,” he said. “In the high latitudes, especially when you get up about 60 degrees north latitude, these happen all winter, pretty much almost every night, because that part of the globe is most sensitive to these fields.”

Here in Wyoming, though, and at similar latitudes around the globe, it takes a stronger “coronal mass ejection” (solar flare) to bring the aurora borealis farther south.

“During solar minimums, or during quiet periods, we don’t see these,” said Day. “They are really rare at these lower latitudes.”

Day reported that the Northern Lights were seen as far south as Cheyenne on Wednesday night, but only for an hour, from about 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

Be Patient

Another solar flare will result in a possible aurora borealis sighting in Wyoming on Friday and Saturday, Day said.

“There was a big solar flare yesterday that did not cause (Wednesday’s) event, but could cause another event on Saturday,” Day said, explaining that it takes a few days for the wave of energy to travel the 97 million miles from the sun to the earth.

“You’ve got to be patient, and to really see these you’ve got to be in a really dark environment,” he noted. “And the pictures you’re getting are people using their cameras, these digital cameras with long exposures to be able to bring out all the colors in them – but I do know that the folks that saw them up in the northern part of the state did say they could see them with the naked eye.”

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Water Levels At Wyoming Reservoirs Are Well-Below Capacities

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

If water levels in reservoirs around Wyoming are looking a little low, well, they are.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and irrigation district officials across the state are reporting that reservoirs levels are well below their capacities.

In Cody, the Buffalo Bill Reservoir contains far less water than it has in the past.

David Merrell, with the Bureau of Reclamation office in Mills, told Cowboy State Daily that water behind the Buffalo Bill Dam is currently at 60% of its capacity. 

However, Merrell said the bureau doesn’t anticipate any water shortages this year.

“Despite drier than normal conditions and below average storage in Buffalo Bill Reservoir, we do not currently anticipate a water shortage in the Bighorn Basin,” he said.

A graph charting water levels at Buffalo Bill for the last 30 years bears that out. Although the fact islands have surfaced at the shallower end of the reservoir, this year’s levels are still above those recorded in 2001. Levels that year were the lowest seen in the last 30 years and were 22 feet below current readings.

Other parts of the state are in a similar situation. Steve Lynn, with the Midvale Irrigation District in Pavillion, said he’s not worried about a lack of irrigation water this summer, although he is hoping spring storms will improve the outlook there.

“We’re sitting in a fairly good position right now,” he said. “It’s not great, but it’s good. Historically, over the last three years that I’ve been here, we’ve seen some pretty good storm events come through in April, which bolstered the snowpack and has put a little more rain down in the lower elevations.”

Bull Lake, which is the main storage reservoir for Fremont County irrigators, is only at about 60% of its capacity right now, according to Lynn, but he said runoff from the snowpack above the reservoir should provide plenty of water this summer.

“I think we’re just under 90,000 acre-feet right now, and the Bureau (of Reclamation) says there’s 150,000 acre-feet of water up in that drainage.”

An acre-foot is the amount of water required to cover one acre of land with 1 foot of water.

Similarly, Bonnie Hueckstaedt, with Eden Valley Irrigation in the state’s southwest corner, told Cowboy State Daily the region’s reservoir, the Big Sandy, is at about 68% of normal right now.

“It’s going to be a short year, unless we get more precipitation,” said Hueckstaedt. “We had a really short year for 2021. And the snow level, where our drainage starts at, is pretty low, only about 31 inches. Compared to last year around this date, it’s about 5 inches shorter than last year.”

Merrell pointed out that weather forecasts for the upcoming months predict a drier than normal spring and early summer.

“The long term forecast per NOAA for the April-June 3-month period is below average precipitation,” he said.

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Wyoming Avalanche Season More Dangerous Than Ever, Avalanche Expert Says

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Because of rising temperatures resulting in more snowmelt, avalanche season in Wyoming is more dangerous than ever, according to the director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

CAIC director Ethan Greene told Cowboy State Daily said the avalanche danger on a given day is determined by weather events occurring over the entire winter, as well as what is happening on a particular day.

“We set ourselves up, building the snowpack over weeks and months, and then what’s happening on a particular day can have a big impact on that buildup,” he said. “Most avalanches occur when we are having some big weather event, like a snowstorm or windstorm. So if you have a big snowstorm rolling in, it’s going to exacerbate what’s happening deeper in the snowpack.”

Fifteen people have been killed in avalanches over the 2021-2022 season, nine of whom have died since the beginning of the 2022. There were 37 avalanche-related deaths during the 2020-2021 season.

Two people have been killed in avalanches in or near Wyoming in the last month.

Jay Norton, 61, a member of the faculty of UW’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, was skiing in the Game Creek drainage on the western slope of the Tetons near Victor, Idaho, when he and another skier triggered an avalanche about two weeks ago.

A 58-year-old snowmobiler from South Dakota was killed near Encampment earlier this month after he was buried underneath the snow from the avalanche.

Greene said that in the case of the avalanche near Encampment, a relatively dry period in the middle of winter produced a weak layer of snow. But more snow began to fall in February and March, adding more weight on top of an already weak layer of snow.

“That fellow triggered a pretty small avalanche, but it was deep enough and it had enough debris in it that it buried him,” Greene said. “He was under the snow and his friend didn’t see it happen, so by the time his friend came back to get him, he’d already passed.”

Greene said in the majority of avalanche-related deaths, a person becomes buried under the snow and begins to breathe in CO2, not unlike breathing into a paper bag. Other deaths are caused by trauma from the avalanche.

The springtime is a particularly dangerous time for avalanches, due to the rapidly warming temperatures and Greene said this will likely be the case until early May.

He encouraged anyone recreating in areas with potential avalanche dangers to use the website avalanche.org to check for up-to-date weather conditions. As of Monday afternoon, western Wyoming has “considerable” avalanche danger, particularly in the Teton, Togwotee Pass and Grey’s River areas.

He recommended that anyone going to recreate in an area where avalanches are possible take a shovel, a probe pole and an avalanche rescue transceiver.

“You’ll have days where it’s sunny and the powder is fresh and people are focused on having a great day outside,” Greene said. “It’s beautiful, there’s good skiing or snowmobiling to be had. And that’s where they get into trouble.”

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Teen Drives Truck Through Tornado in Texas; Wyo Meteorologist Don Day Cautions Against That

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A viral video of a person driving a pickup truck through a tornado in Texas on Monday prompted two Wyoming officials to issue a warning for anyone thinking of trying the same thing.

Cowboy State Daily Meteorologist Don Day and Dave King, emergency management coordinator for Campbell County, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that it is incredibly dangerous to drive through tornadoes.

“If the car gets picked up, then you’re inside of a tin can being thrown around,” King said. “The impact when it comes down is not going to be good for the contents inside. Let alone if you don’t stay inside.”

King said instead of continuing to drive in the tornado’s path, people should stop, get out of the car and try to get as low as possible, even laying in a ditch if possible, to protect themselves.

“The most deadly part about a tornado is not the wind, it’s the flying debris,” Day said. “A shingle off of a roof moving at 120 MPH will go right through you life a knife. You don’t want to get a false sense of security that your nice, cushy, air conditioned car that weighs several thousand pounds will stay on the road in this situation.”

The driver who was caught in the tornado on Monday, not only survived but was able to drive away after the twister flipped the truck on its side and flung it 360 degrees before flipping it back on its wheels.

“I CANNOT believe they drove away like that,” stormchaser Brian Emfinger wrote in a tweet along with the video.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported the driver suffered only a cut on his arm.

Day could not say for sure how frequently tornadoes occur in Wyoming every year, because there are likely many that occur in rural areas where no one sees them. The weatherman compared the situation to a tree falling in a forest and no one being around.

The eastern border counties in Wyoming, such as Laramie, Goshen and Campbell counties, are the most likely to be hit by tornadoes every year, but Day added they are possible in every county in the state.

Tornado season in Wyoming typically begins around late April and can stretch into early September, but they occur most commonly in June and July.

However, most of the tornadoes that touch down in Wyoming range in the EF0 (65 to 85 mph) to EF2 (111 to 135 mph) range, meaning they are relatively weak.

Day and King believe that a 2005 tornado in Wright was the last deadly twister in the state, with two people being killed in the storm. It was measured at an EF3 scale, which means it had estimated wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph.

A tornado in Cheyenne in 1979 was also one of the few deadly ones seen in the state, with one person killed and 40 people injured during the incident. That was the most destructive tornado the state has ever seen, with around 200 homes being destroyed.

Day added that strong tornadoes can pick up anything, including cows, as accurately depicted in the 1990s blockbuster film, “Twister.”

Editor’s note: The original version of this story did not include the “don’t” in Dave King’s quote. It has since been updated.

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Snowmobiler Killed In Avalanche Near Encampment Over Weekend

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A snowmobiler was killed in an avalanche near Encampment over the weekend, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The snowmobiler triggered the avalanche on Saturday afternoon, was buried by massive amounts of snow and died. The avalanche occurred on a northeast-facing mountainside near Willow Park at an elevation of around 10,000 feet.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the friends and family, and everyone involved in this accident,” center officials wrote on the website.

The snowmobiler had not been identified as of Monday afternoon, but center officials said they would update the report as more information became available.

According to the center, this is the first person in Wyoming to be killed in an avalanche this season. Twelve people have been killed over the 2021-2022 season: three skiers, six snowmobilers and three climbers, hikers or snowshoers.

Four of those deaths occurred in Montana and four took place in Colorado.

Thirty-seven avalanche-related deaths occurred in the 2020-2021 season, four in Wyoming.

The center noted that snowmobile use is generally the second-most frequent cause of avalanches because of the stress the machines apply to the snowpack.

The most frequent cause of avalanches was identified as the “backcountry tourer.”

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Wyoming’s Snowpack Levels Are Low; Officials Hopeful March, April Snows Will Make Up For It

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

While the mountain snowpacks that fill Wyoming’s rivers and reservoirs are lower than they usually are at this time of year, meteorologists are hopeful that snowfalls in March and April will make up for it.

Tony Bergantino, acting director of the Water Resources Data System in the Wyoming State Climate Office told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that although snowpack levels are low, the period where Wyoming gets some of its heaviest snow accumulations is fast approaching.

“I can think of several years where the timeframe around March 15-20 has had some very heavy snowfalls, as well as the large storm in the middle of March last year which set some records,” Bergantino said.

“The snows we got around Christmas and the two or so weeks following were good for pushing the percentage up to normal (and above) but when things turned off after that, the snowpack remained near constant, only increasing gradually until we were below the median and continued to lose ground,” he said.

None of Wyoming’s snowpacks are above average for this time of year, although snowpacks in the Wind, Upper North Platte and Laramie basins are the closest, measuring at 93%, 90% and 94% of the median, respectively, as of Thursday.

Bergantino was hopeful that the snowfall predicted for most of the state this weekend would bring the snowpack levels closer to normal.

Southeastern Wyoming saw the lowest snowpack levels at 64% of the median, followed by northeastern Wyoming at 68% to 70%.

Wyoming weatherman Don Day agreed with both Bergantino’s analysis of the snowpack levels and the chances for replenishing snows to fall over the next two and one-half months.

“This time of year is the big snowpack month, when we normally see the water-laden snows start hitting the mountains more,” he said. “It’s been a really strange snowpack year. It started off really bad, with the levels being really poor in November into the second week of December.”

However, since the end of December, snowpack levels have declined, since there hasn’t been much snowfall since the beginning of the year.

“I think what’s going to happen is something similar to what happened in December, which is the snowpack season starts off poorly, but then we have this big burst of snow, and everybody’s happy,” Day said. “Then, we kind of go into this two months of very little mountain snow. Snowpack levels aren’t great, but I have hope that the next two and a half months are going to help.”

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Cheyenne Animal Shelter Employee Explains How Cold Is Too Cold Outside For Wyoming Pets

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Forecasts for frigid temperatures across Wyoming from Tuesday through at least Thursday have residents bundling up and adding layer after layer of clothing.

The cold snap also has the Cheyenne Animal Shelter staff urging pet owners to be aware of how cold is “too cold” for their furry friends when going outside.

“For smaller animals, coats are a good idea, but the best thing is to make sure time outside is brief and all about getting business done,” Niki Harrison, branding director for the animal shelter, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “It’s important to take your pets out to use the restroom, just make sure to watch for any signs of discomfort to their paws and keep the outing short.”

The animal shelter shared a chart on its social media Tuesday indicating what temperatures would be too low for dogs ranging in size from small to large. Once the temperatures hit 55 degrees or higher, all dogs are safe to walk and play outside.

However, as temperatures drop from there, small dogs run a higher risk of developing cold-related health issues such as frostbite or hypothermia. By the time temperatures fall to 10 degrees or colder, dogs of every size run the risk cold weather maladies.

Puppies, elderly dogs and dogs with short coats specifically should spend limited amounts of time outside, as they are particularly susceptible to getting sick in frigid weather.

But dogs are not the only animals that might be outside in cold temperatures.

Barn cats and community cats are pretty savvy when it comes to cold weather but still need places made available to shelter from the cold,” Harrison said. “There are so many great ideas out there to make shelters out of old coolers or containers for feral cats. If you have a typical indoor/outdoor cat, weather like this constitutes keeping them inside.”

She added that chickens should also be kept out of the cold in a coop that is properly ventilated. Anyone with chickens should ensure there is no cold air blowing directly on the birds and make sure the animals have water and food to weather the storm.

Thankfully, the Cheyenne shelter does not see an increase of animals being brought in during colder weather, but Harrison pointed out that there are definitely animals that lose their way while out in the snow.

On really windy days, when fences might blow down, we definitely see more pets, though,” she said. “It’s always important to have microchip information updated and have the proper identification tags on your pets if they’re headed outside; that way, we can get ahold of the owner quickly.

She also noted that local animal control departments across the state, as well as in Cheyenne, are great community resources that will do wellness checks on animals people have concerns about during the freezing conditions.

Just keep an eye on your pets and enjoy the time by snuggling up together somewhere warm!” Harrison said.

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Don Day Weather: Dangerous Wind Chills Ahead, Expect 40 Below Zero in Some Areas

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming will experience the coldest temperatures of the season this week with sub-zero lows being commonplace around the state, according to meteorologist Don Day.

Day said Monday that severe cold temperatures with severe wind chills dropping temperatures to 30 to 40 degrees below zero will occur in most areas of the state beginning on Monday night.

“Be ready for the big chill,” Day said. “It’s here. It’s not turning back. We’re going to have to deal with it through Friday.”

Day, in his morning forecast, produced a map showing the likely wind chills this week. Greybull and Basin may get the worst of it with a forecasted 42 degrees below zero possible.

The map also showed that every corner of the state will be affected by the wintry blast .

As for snow, Day cautioned that long portions of Interstate 80 from Sweetwater County to Albany County could be affected by snow and by high winds.

Southern central Wyoming appears to be the target of the most severe weather.

While Rock Springs and Laramie each had winter weather advisories posted, parts of Carbon County, including Rawlins, were under a winter storm warning, with snowfall of 6 to 12 inches forecast for Monday and Tuesday morning, along with wind gusts as high as 40 mph.

In northern Wyoming, Sheridan was under a winter storm warning until 6 a.m. Tuesday as forecasts called for up to 3 inches of snow with high winds leading to drifting snow and wind chills as low as 20 degrees below zero.

East-central Wyoming was under a wind chill warning through Thursday morning, with forecasts calling for wind chills as low as 40 degrees below zero.

The towns of Douglas and Lusk could receive 6 inches of snow in addition to the cold temperatures.

Wyoming’s two largest cities will be affected as well, Day’s forecast showed, with expected to receive more snow than Cheyenne.

The heaviest line of snow in central Wyoming was expected to occur along and south of a line from Jeffrey City to 20 miles north of Casper.  Wind gusts in this area could top 45 mph.

In Cheyenne, meanwhile, a wind chill advisory was posted through Thursday morning with temperatures expected to drop to 9 degrees below zero and wind chills expected to plunge to 30 below.

Day said the weekend will warm up, but he expected another wintry blast heading into next week.

“We have what could be a large Western storm right around the fifth of March or the next weekend after this one,” he said.

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Wyoming Feels Shockwave From Tonga Volcano; Could Affect Weather

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming over the weekend felt the shockwaves from a volcanic eruption half a world away.

However, only time will tell if the ash and gases released by the eruption 6,200 miles away from Wyoming will affect the state’s climate, according to meteorologist Don Day.

On Saturday, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano near Tonga erupted in what may be the largest volcanic eruption seen in the last 30 years, according to CNN.

This eruption caused tsunamis on Tonga’s largest island and caused shockwaves that would ultimately go around the world. No information has been released yet on deaths due to the volcano, but two deaths in Peru were blamed on resulting tsunamis.

The eruption caused a change in the air pressure could be felt in Jackson and western Wyoming around 5:30 a.m. Saturday. The rest of the state had a pressure change within the next 45 minutes, Day said.

“This eruption is just amazing,” Day said. “If you were on Mars, you could have seen it, that’s how big the eruption was. But as for the shockwave here, unless you knew a volcano went off and were a total geek, looking at the air pressure, you would have never known it happened.”

Day said that he is regularly asked if a volcanic eruption can affect the weather and climate.

His response?

“Absolutely.”

However, he said that certain developments need to occur during an eruption for it to affect the weather, such as volcanic ash and other released gases needing to hit the stratosphere, the second layer of atmosphere. He also said when and where the volcano erupts play a part in the weather effects.

Day pointed to the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, which ejected 20 million metric tons of sulfur dioxide and caused global temperatures to drop 0.5 degrees between 1991 and 1993.

Because the weather-related effects of a volcanic eruption cannot be seen immediately, Day said it is hard to predict how the Tonga volcano will affect the weather in Wyoming.

“This is probably not going to change our weather tomorrow or within the next week,” he said. “But I think the best thing to do is monitor the situation.”

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Storm Loosens Grip In Wyoming; Highways Re-open; High Winds Predicted

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By Wendy Corr, Ellen Fike and Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Travel resumed on most of southeastern Wyoming’s highways on Thursday as a strong winter storm that dropped up to 18 inches of snow on parts of the state loosened its grip.

In the wake of the storm, Wyoming residents braced for brisk winds expected to cause the snow to blow and drift on Friday. However, the winds were also expected to bring warmer temperatures to the state, which shivered through sub-zero readings on Wednesday night.

““Wind is going to be the problem into Friday, but on the upside, it will cause some warmer temperatures,” said Brandon Wills, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. “The southeastern part of the state will have gusty winds overnight Thursday and portions of Friday.” 

Snowfall tapered off across the state Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. Accumulations from the storm ranged from 4 to 6 inches in Torrington to 5 to 8 inches in Cheyenne and 18 inches in LaGrange.

Eastern Wyoming from Wheatland to Rawlins was under a high wind warning until Friday, with gusts expected to reach 45 to 50 mph.

But Wills said there is no precipitation in the forecast for foreseeable future.

As the state shook off the impact of the storm, Interstate 80 remained closed Thursday between Cheyenne and Rawlins. Travel was possible from Rawlins to the Utah state line, although the segment of highway across western Wyoming was subject to rolling closures.

Interstate 25, which was closed between Cheyenne and Douglas for most of Wednesday, also opened for travel Thursday.

However, commenters on the “Wyoming Road and Weather Conditions Reports Updates” Facebook page continued to urge drivers to exercise caution in the face of some continuing bad conditions.

One commenter warned of a truck stuck in the wrong lane in a bend in the canyon on Wyoming Highway 230 north of Laramie. Others warned of white-out conditions, poor visibility and icy roads. 

In the 24 hours between noon Wednesday and Thursday, the Wyoming Highway Patrol responded to 22 crashes on I80 and I25, two of those involving injuries, according to Sgt. Jeremy Beck. 

In addition, Beck said that troopers also helped 92 stranded motorists, including semi-trailers and vehicles that were stuck or slid off the road.

Meanwhile, with a video showing a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper nearly being hit by an out-of-control car on an interstate highway fresh in memory, Wyoming Department of Transportation officials urged drivers to be careful, especially around highway workers.

Slick roads and careless drivers posed threats for highway workers during the storm, said Cody Beers, a senior public relations specialist with WYDOT.

“We’re seeing slick roads, and in some cases, people driving too fast for conditions,” he said.

He noted that because it’s been a while since there’s been a big snow event in many parts of the state, drivers can be out of practice for winter road conditions.

“I think anytime we haven’t had snow for a while, we have to retrain our drivers for winter conditions,” Beers said. “They need to realize that there are people out on the roadways that are trying to do their jobs, such as snow plow drivers, highway troopers, deputy sheriffs, local police, emergency responders, and it’s our number one priority out there to be safe.”

Beers praised the crews who are doing their best to clear the highways.

“Our guys are on top of it,” he said. “And they’re working some overtime, and we’re doing our job.”

Beers reminded motorists to be extra cautious.

“The whole idea is to go to work, get home safe, go to your destination, get home safe, get to your appointment safe,” Beers said. “So when it’s snowing and blowing and it’s icy and slippery, we need to slow down and get safely to our destination. It’s just common sense.”

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Wyo Trooper Nearly Hit By Vehicle As Storm Closes Highways Across State

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By Wendy Corr, Ellen Fike and Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

An out-of-control vehicle on a Wyoming highway nearly hit a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper on Wednesday as most of the state shivered through cold temperatures and snow left by a winter storm.

The storm forced the closure of sections of both Interstate 80 and 25 and the Wyoming Highway Patrol posted the video on its Facebook page to urge drivers to take care on the sections of the highway that remained open.

“One of our troopers recorded this video while working a crash on the Interstate. Please slow down, use caution, and plan ahead,” the department said.

The storm expected to bring up to 1 foot of snow to some lower elevations of the state stretched from Cody to Cheyenne on Wednesday, bringing with it strong winds that forced the closure of the highways.

The storm came as no surprise for the National Weather Service, whose forecasters had predicted the blast of wintery weather.

“We’re seeing the snowfall amounts that we’ve expected so far,” said Joshua Rowe, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Riverton. “The snow is lingering a bit longer up in Cody, and also in the Wind River Basin, as this cold arctic air has now moved in and hit the Absaroka Mountains and the Wind River Mountains and has gotten stuck up against that.”

Rowe said the snow in the central part of the state had stopped by Wednesday afternoon, for the most part. 

However, before moving on, the storm left about 5 inches of snow in the Cody area.

The storm also left cold temperatures in its wake, with overnight lows expected to fall below zero.

“Since that arctic front has moved south of the Bighorn Basin and the Wind River Basin, it’s kind of stalled out along the Fremont and Sweetwater County line,” Rowe said. “Areas west of that are staying warm for now. They’ll start to drop though, especially overnight.”

The southern portion of the state also got hit with snow throughout Wednesday, with Cheyenne picking up anywhere from 3 to 5 inches by late in the day, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Rob Cox. 

Torrington received around 4 inches of snow, while Wheatland was buried under about 9 inches. 

Cox said another couple of inches would fall before the end of the night Wednesday. 

“People should anticipate the snow to taper off late Wednesday, but it will be back again Thursday morning,” Cox said. 

He said another couple of inches of snow could fall again Thursday, meaning that much of the southern part of the state could be buried in anywhere from 6 inches to 1 foot of snow by noon Thursday. 

The meteorologist added that the wind chill in the Cheyenne area overnight Wednesday would be brutal, dropping to 5 to 20 degrees below zero. 

In his Wednesday forecast, Wyoming meteorologist Don Day said it would be an “arctic surge” over the next 36 hours in Wyoming, making travel dangerous and conditions hazardous for livestock. 

The storm forced the closure of Interstate 80 from Cheyenne to Rawlins and from Granger to Evanston, while Interstate 25 was closed from Cheyenne to Douglas.

As brisk winds continued to push snow across the interstate highways, road users predicted it could be a while before traffic would be moving normally again.

“I think it’s safe to say that all major roads in Wyoming will be closed for the next three days,” one commenter wrote on Wyoming Road and Weather Conditions Reports Updates” Facebook page.

As roads began closing Wednesday morning, reports of accidents along major highways began to surface on Facebook.

Accidents included an incident in which a semi-trailer hit a horse trailer on Interstate 80 east of Rawlins and one in which a Federal Express truck hit the back of a semi near Sinclair.

Others Facebook posts warned of multiple slide offs and stalled semis in the Bridger Valley section of I–80.

Between 1 a.m. Tuesday and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Wyoming Highway Patrol reported 29 accidents on I80 and four more on 125. Of those, five resulted in injuries, according to WHP Spokesperson Sgt. Jeremy Beck.

Beck said that the storm had initially been centralized in one area and slowly crept across the state with multiple highway and road closures throughout the day. 

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Don Day: Parts of Wyoming Will Have White Christmas; Other Areas Will Be Dusty and Brown

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The western portion of the state will probably have a white Christmas to some extent this year, Wyoming weatherman Don Day told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

“First we have to define what a ‘white Christmas’ means,” Day said. “Does it mean there will be snow on the ground on Christmas day or does it mean it will be snowing on Christmas?”

For some parts of Wyoming, the answer will likely be both. From Wednesday night through Saturday morning, the area from Evanston to Rawlins will likely receive 2 to 6 inches of snow and the Jackson area will get anywhere from 9 to 13 inches.

“It’s going to snow for many days in a row in Jackson,” Day said. “But they’re kind of used to that, up in the mountains.”

The Interstate 80 corridor of southwestern Wyoming is probably the best area to see falling snow this Christmas Eve and day, Day said.

The rest of the state will probably not have the stereotypical white Christmas, seeing little or no snow on Christmas Eve or day this year. Day said there is a 50-50 chance the northeast portion of the state, such as Sheridan and Gillette, will see measurable snow. The chances are the same for the Douglas and Casper areas, Day said.

Laramie will likely see some snow this weekend, and the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the Snowy and Sierra Madre regions. The expected snowfall in the area could be anywhere from 5 to 8 inches.

Cheyenne, on the other hand, probably won’t have any snow on Christmas. Day noted that this isn’t uncommon, as a study he conducted on snowfall in Cheyenne revealed there was only about a 24% chance it would snow on Christmas in any given year.

“The statistical opportunity for it to snow on Halloween in Cheyenne is actually higher than it snowing on Christmas,” he said.

For anyone who is hoping for a white Christmas in any part of Wyoming, Day joked that he was trying his best to make it happen.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a white Christmas because I’m a purist,” he said. “I’m putting in those extra hours to make sure it snows on Christmas, but stays off the roads.”

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Clark, Wyoming Records Hurricane Category 3 Gust of 118mph; Roads Closed Again

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It was a bit blustery in Wyoming on Saturday and Sunday, but unless you were in Clark in northern Park County, anything you experienced pales in comparison.

The community some 30 miles north of Cody got blasted by a Hurricane Category 3 gust with winds hitting 118 mph.

Everywhere was relatively calm, by comparison.

Casper did record a gust of 76 mph which makes it only a Category 1 hurricane (and barely at that).

Regardless, winds were whipping all over the Cowboy State  on Saturday on Sunday with many other communities recording gusts of over 60 and 70 mph.

As a result, large sections of both Interstates 80 and 25  were closed.

Outside of Evanston, Wyoming semi-trucks were backed up for miles on Sunday morning waiting for the interstate to re-open.



While it looked cold, frozen, and closed on Interstate 80 in far western Wyoming, it looked quite different 400 miles east near the Wyoming-Nebraska border.

There it was brown and wide-open. The only thing similar in both locations was the seemingly ever-present wind which is a constant companion in Wyoming’s winter months.



As usual the areas near Arlington and Cooper Cove on Interstate 80 between Laramie and Rawlins were not conducive to travel.

Photos from the webcams on Sunday morning in those locations showed long lines of trucks playing the same waiting game.



The Facebook page “Wyoming Road and Weather Conditions Reports Updates” was active on Sunday morning with motorists exchanging information about the road conditions in their areas and advising others on strategies to take.

One commenter said stay put if you can.

“Today will be a mess because of the unleashing of everyone who’s been stuck. If you have the means and ability, wait an additional day and stay out of the mass rush,” Clint Christensen said.

Others were trying to help those who were less fortunate. One couple lost their dog after they were involved in an accident.

“Anyone who maybe traveling I80 please keep your eyes open,” Teresa Leroux said. “This is Yogi. He and his owners were in a roll-over on Thursday near Rawlins at mile marker 209. 

“He is still missing and we are praying for the best and hoping someone may see him. If you do please contact me. He maybe wearing a pink coat,” she said.



For the latest road and travel information, visit the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s webpage or download WYDOT’s 511 app.

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Blowing Snow, Low Temps Lead to Multiple Accidents, Closures Along I-80

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Gusty winds, cold temperatures and blowing snow led to multiple accidents and closures across southern Wyoming on Friday as motorists on Interstate 80 waited out the weather as a winter storm gusted through the state’s southwestern corner.

In the 24 hours between noon Thursday and noon Friday, the Wyoming Highway Patrol reported 91 weather-related accidents between Rawlins and the Utah state line alone, according to Sgt. Jeremy Beck, WHP public relations spokesperson.

To his knowledge, Beck said none of the accidents involved any fatalities.

Closures

As of Friday afternoon, all of the eastbound lanes of 1-80 between Evanston and Cheyenne were on rolling closures with an estimated opening time of 19 to 21 hours.

All lanes in both directions of the interstate between Rawlins and Laramie were closed Friday afternoon, with drivers being diverted to hotels, truck stops and businesses in neighboring cities.

The purpose behind implementing rolling closures is to ease the burden of stopped traffic on cities and towns along the 1-80 corridor.

The technique allows stranded drivers to get to the next location for greater access to the parking, fuel, hotel, restaurants and other services when a particular town hits peaks capacity.

The rolling closures were effective Friday, said Jordan Achs, WYDOT senior public affairs specialist, who added feedback so far has been positive.

“We don’t want people to be stuck without a place to stay or be without resources during long- duration closures,” she said.

WYDOT and Wyoming Highway Patrol work together to reach out to the hotels and businesses in these towns and cities to monitor resources. Friday’s storm was pretty localized, Achs noted, with a heavy amount of fallen snow being blown by heavy winds at higher elevations.

Gusts between Laramie and Rawlins were measured at 70 mph.

Over the past day, the southern border has received 5 to 10 inches of snow with some spots getting as much as 13 inches, according to meteorologist Don Day. 

Despite the weather conditions, some drivers had blown past the snow gates closing the interstate and gotten stuck.

Achs didn’t know how many vehicles had done so, but she did say rescuing the vehicles and getting the drivers to safety has diverted resources from other tasks.

She added that ignoring a snow gate comes with a $750 fine.

“It can be frustrating to commercial truck drivers,” she said. “But these closures are for their health and safety.”

Waiting it out

Mark Telkamp wasn’t expecting to go anywhere too soon Friday afternoon. 

The jet fuel truck driver for MG Oil/Heartland was parked at the Love’s Travel Stop in Green River and settling in for a long wait while WYDOT snowplow drivers work on clearing 1-80.

This was his second stop of the day. He had been parked down the road at Rock Springs for the 13 hours waiting out the storm and made it about 45 miles before he was stopped due to interstate closures.

It’s just part of the job, Telkamp said. He’s been trucking in Wyoming for the past 25 years and being shut down by weather is par for the course. 

“I feel resigned,” he said, “but it doesn’t mean it’s fun.”

Mind the plows

A reported 15% shortage of snow plow drivers this year was having no impact on the department’s work on Friday, Achs said.

She added since the storm is limited to the state’s southwestern corner, the department is having no trouble meeting staffing needs with available workers.

In the case of significant snow events, the department will move resources to areas most affected.

That said, snow plows in general have had a rough couple of years, with with more hit by drivers in the past two years that at any other time in the department’s history, Achs said. She didn’t have numbers readily available but she did  encourage drivers to stay back and give snowplows room to work.

“Sometimes plows can create their own whiteouts,” she said. “Please give them space to do their job.”

Up-to-date road closures can be found on WYDOT

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Wyoming About To See Winter Weather Across The State

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By Jennifer Kocher and Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

As Don Day said in his Monday morning forecast, “the winter storm is on schedule.”

Much of the state is expected to see snow Tuesday, and Day said that travel along Interstate 25 will likely be impacted due to the wintry weather.

“You do not want to be caught unprepared for this storm,” Day said.

The areas in southeastern Wyoming, such as Cheyenne and Laramie, that are not hit with snow on Tuesday and Wednesday will likely see stronger winds and rain.

Much of the mountainous areas in Wyoming, Colorado and western South Dakota will be severely impacted due to the snow. A winter storm warning is in effect for the Casper, Shirley Basin and Garrett areas, according to the National Weather Service in Cheyenne.

The southwestern portion of the state, including Rock Springs, Kemmerer and Evanston, will see anywhere from one to three inches of snow on Tuesday. Jackson and Afton are predicted to see about one to two inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service in Riverton.

Although the forecast for the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains calls for almost a foot of snow, not all of that will pile up, according to Celia Hensley with the National Weather Service in Riverton.

“It is going to snow through pretty consistently for the next 12 to 24 hours, maybe longer,” Hensley said. “But because the surface temperatures are warm, since it’s been in the 50s 60s over the last couple of weeks, that’s not what you’re going to see on the ground. What you’re going to see on the ground is whatever sticks – which will start to stick probably this evening, once the sun goes down.”

Hensley points out that road conditions from Cody south to Lander will most likely be wet rather than snow-covered, due to higher surface temperatures – but what people need to most watch out for is heavy, snow-laden tree limbs.

“Overnight tonight, when the snow does start to stick, it’s going to start to stick to the trees as well,” she said. “You’re going to have gusty winds potentially come in, and that could lead to some tree damage and localized power outages for the Cody area down towards Thermopolis. Any snow that sticks to the trees is going to be heavy and wet and could bring some limbs down, potentially some full trees down.”

Hensley clarifies that the majority of the snowfall will be west of the Continental Divide – so places like Jackson and Star Valley won’t see much in the way of precipitation.

“In Jackson, we’re only looking at an inch or two falling,” she said. “And, again, it’s not likely going to stick to the roads, or maybe you’ll get an inch of slush on grassy surfaces overnight.”

Over in northeast Wyoming, the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for Campbell County, including Wright and Gillette, effective Monday evening that will remain in effect through Wednesday afternoon with snow accumulations of up to 3 to 12 inches and wind gusts up to 40 mph.

There’s a slight that rain and snow will begin around noon Monday with a high near 52 degrees, though the real snow is predicted to begin tonight and continue throughout the day Tuesday with temperatures dipping into the mid-30s. Snow is expected to fall throughout the day Tuesday into Wednesday where there’s a 50% chance of light snow, mostly before noon with temps in the low 30s and wind gusts up to 26 mph. 

Heavier snow is predicted for the Sheridan area with snowfall accumulations between 11 and 15 inches, beginning with rain Monday evening turning into snow by early morning Tuesday as temperatures plunge to the mid-30s. Around 4 inches of snow is expected by morning with another 7 inches possible throughout Tuesday and another 3 inches possible after 10 p.m. The snow is expected to dissipate Wednesday morning as temperatures lift to low 40s and the chance of precipitation falls to 60% with winds between 14 to 16 mph.

Sundance will likely see mostly rain with only slight snow accumulation with rain turning to snow late Tuesday night, early Wednesday morning with up to 1 to 3 inches possible by noon with wind gusts up to 26 mph and a low of 22 degrees. 

Hulett, meanwhile, will miss most of the snow with new snow accumulations predicted to be less than an inch between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning and instead will likely see rain with highs near 45 degrees with rain and light to no snow expected over the three-day period in Newcastle and Weston County. 

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Happy Fall: Wyoming Sees First Snowfall Of Season

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

It wouldn’t be a September in Wyoming if there wasn’t at least a little bit of snowfall in the state.

The higher elevations of Wyoming, such as the pass between Cheyenne and Laramie, Yellowstone National Park and Togwotee Pass, saw at least some snowfall on Sunday night into Monday morning.

Wyoming meteorologist Don Day said every mountain range in Wyoming received a “decent amount of snow.”

“By decent I mean from 2 to 5 inches,” Day said. “And it got deep into Colorado as well.”

Day said elevations as low as 8,000 feet received snow, noting that Encampment had a dusting.

“So almost down to the plains,” he said.

It also wouldn’t be September in Wyoming without snow on the summit between Laramie and Cheyenne — the highest point on Interstate 80. Snow there measured a little over 2 inches.

Jason Straub, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Riverton, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that his office received reports of 2 to 3 inches of snow in Yellowstone National Park and around 1.5 inches at the Togwotee Pass.

“This snowfall is definitely not out of the ordinary, but we’re going back to a warming trend,” Straub said.

The forecast for the Riverton area called for temperatures to warm to the 60s to 80s in the next few days.

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Wyoming Might Escape Record-Smashing High Temps In Northwest & Southwest U.S.

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Record high temperatures in the northwest and southwest United States have caused a number of deaths and are threatening to overwhelm the power grid in some states like California.

But extreme temperatures like those that have been reported in other parts of the country are unlikely to occur in Wyoming, according to meteorologist Don Day.

“I think, for the next three weeks — this would take us through the end of July — I certainly see some hot days coming,” Day said, “but whether or not we hit a long string of record heat? I don’t see it.”

Last month saw the hottest Junes on record for eight states, including Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah and the heat currently baking those states could challenge previous record high temperatures — although meteorologists say this heat wave isn’t expected to be as extreme as the one that caused more than 100 deaths in the Pacific Northwest the last week of June.

Day explained that a tropical storm over the Pacific Ocean created a high pressure system over the Pacific Northwest — and that system was in just the right position to draw dry, hot air from over the deserts in California and Nevada. 

“It was basically the perfect setup, which brought the record heat,” he said.

“Heat domes” are zones of strong high pressure, beneath which the air is compressed and heats up. In a drought-stricken region, however, a heat wave is even more extreme. With very little moisture in soils, heat energy that would normally cause evaporation, helping to cool the air, instead increases the heat in the air and the ground.

“This establishment of this hot pattern (in the southwest) is being exacerbated because those areas are in severe drought,” Day said. “So, you know, it always gets hot there this time of year, but the drought situation that they’re in, it makes this period of hot weather more impactful for sure.”

But Day clarified that the heat wave that residents in the southwest are experiencing right now is completely normal for this time of year.

“You do not expect 70- to 80-degree temperatures in the desert southwest and the central valleys of California,” he said. “This is a hot time of year, and it’s also a very dry time of year. The high pressure ridge that’s building — yes, it’s going to bring triple digit heat, but in terms of the deviation from normals, it won’t be anything like what happened in the Pacific Northwest. It’s just a summer wave of heat in the desert southwest, where temperatures are gonna be about 10 or 15 degrees above average.”

But Day said that the overall weather patterns that are forming over the intermountain west aren’t unusual.

“If you were to look at climatology, the hottest weeks of the year on average in most of Wyoming is going to be the middle of July to the middle of August,” Day said. “Those four weeks are typically the hottest days of the year. So you’re going to get heat regardless — just like saying you’re going to get really cold in January or February.”

But Day said that the weather patterns that bring afternoon showers and thunderstorms to Wyoming should continue.

“We’re going to start to get some of the subtropical moisture coming in, where you get more afternoon clouds, you get more afternoon showers with thunderstorms,” Day said, explaining that those showers and thunderstorms break up the heat of the day. “That’s not to say we won’t get some record highs, but nothing that is going to be off the charts.”  

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Wyoming Towns Annihilated Record Temperatures on Tuesday

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It wasn’t just the breaking of high-temperature records, it was the obliteration of the records. Or annihilation. Or perhaps eradication. Decimation would work too, but that’s actually an incorrect usage of the word.

Whatever word or phrase you want to use to describe the heat wave that all but destroyed old high-temperature records in Wyoming on Tuesday, it happened. Simply put, it was hot.

Sheridan tied the highest temperature ever recorded in that town — on any day — by hitting 107 degrees on Tuesday. As for the date of June 15 itself, the previous record was a lukewarm 98 back in 1931.

You know it’s hot when Big Piney — the town known as the “Icebox of the Nation” — tops the 90 degree mark. It did. The icebox notched back-to-back records on Monday and Tuesday with temperatures of 90 and 91, respectively.

Worland topped a 34-year-old record by hitting 106 degrees on Tuesday, erasing the 102 degree record set back in 1987.

Thermopolis hit 104 degrees, which smashed its old record of 98 recorded in 1959.

Buffalo also hit the 104 mark and in doing so broke the old record by 19 degrees. The previous high was only 85 set only a year ago.

Cheyenne’s record high of 92 was impressive in that the old record was set before Wyoming was even a state. Its previous high was 90 and was recorded in 1888.

As for other records, the following communities also set all-time highs on Tuesday:

Laramie
Rawlins
Douglas
Casper
Cody
Lander
Riverton
Rock Springs

Certainly there were other communities that participated in the obliteration as well but these were the towns the weather services reported.

More records are possible this week. The big cool-down will begin on Friday.

In the meantime, try to stay cool, Wyoming. Summer isn’t here for long, so enjoy the heat!

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Car Struck By Lightning Outside Cheyenne During Tuesday Storm

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two people in a car on Interstate 80 Tuesday evening managed to avoid injury after their vehicle was struck by lightning during a severe storm in Cheyenne.

According to Laramie County Fire District No. 10, firefighters, the Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers and emergency medical workers responded to a report of a vehicle on Interstate 80 near Cheyenne being struck by lightning.

The vehicle’s driver and passenger said the lightning struck the hood of their car and then felt as if something pushed the car forward. The driver was able to maneuver the vehicle to the side of the road even though its electrical power had been knocked out.

The departent said the lightning struck the front of the car and traveled to the back window, causing it to shatter. A couple of small pieces of plastic were also melted on the passenger side’s front wheel well.

“When dealing with lightning storms, and rapid weather changing conditions it’s critical to remain inside your vehicle while traveling,” the district said. Your vehicle is shelter. It’s also very important to not block the roadway under overhead passes, and bridges during hail storms. This allows emergency vehicles to respond to an emergency without interruption.”

According to an NBC report, cars are safe from lightning because of the metal cage surrounding people in the vehicle. The cage directs the lightning charge around the occupants and into the ground.

Tuesday’s hailstorm, accompanied by more than 2.3 inches of rain, left some streets flooded, but otherwise caused no major damage.

After the storm, Cheyenne has now seen more precipitation since Jan. 1 than in all of 2020, receiving 11.3 inches of precipitation so far this year. In 2020, the city only saw 10.03 inches.

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Cheyenne Pummeled With Hail; Wyoming One of the Most Hailed-On States In Country

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

It turns out that the kind of hailstorms Cheyenne saw Tuesday are sort of typical for the season, according to the National Weather Service.

Tuesday’s hailstorm, accompanied by more than 2.3 inches of rain, left some streets flooded, but otherwise caused no major damage.

Gerry Claycomb, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Cheyenne, said this region is well known for its hailstorms, with the area from Rapid City, South Dakota to Denver seeing “quite a bit” of hail every year.

“A lot of the hail has to do with the elevation, since we’re pretty high up here in Cheyenne,” Claycomb told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “So since we’re so high up in the atmosphere, the big hail that forms in thunderstorms has a lot less time to melt before it hits the ground.”

According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming usually have the highest number of hailstorms in the United States every year. These states meet in an area known as “hail alley” and average seven to nine hail days per year.

Claycomb said early June is a prime time for severe storms in southeast Wyoming.

He added that some of the worst-hit areas for hail during the year are Torrington, Chugwater and Wheatland.

“Those people get some massive hail,” he said. “The topography up there mixed with the higher elevation means they just get terrible hail. Some of the worst reports I’ve seen of hail in the state have come from there.”

Hail that completely covers roadways can be especially dangerous because if it is deep enough, a vehicle’s tires may not touch the road at all, making it a sheet of ice.

After the Tuesday hailstorm, Cheyenne has now seen more precipitation since Jan. 1 than all of 2020, receiving 11.3 inches of precipitation so far this year. In 2020, the city only saw 10.03 inches.

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Summer Temps Set Records Across Wyoming

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Summer hit Wyoming with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees above average in many parts of the state, setting record highs, according to data from the National Weather Service.

Though not unprecedented, Riverton meteorologist Noah Myers said, it’s also not typical of this time of year.

“It does happen,” Myers said, “and it’s definitely setting records and probably will (Friday), too.”

The National Weather Service data is based on information collected over the past 20 years from primary weather sites throughout the state.

The hotspot Thursday was Greybull with a high of 95 degrees, well above the average of 75 degrees for early June, breaking former record-high of 88 set in 2000.  

Buffalo hit a high of 90 degrees, beating the former all-time high of 82 degrees for June 3 set last year. Gillette also hit a high of 90 on Thursday.

Big Piney’s daytime high of 85 on Thursday also set a record, beating the previous record of 82 set in 1986. Casper was slightly cooler at 84 degrees, tying its record high for the same day in 1992.

Riverton, too, saw an all-time high of 88 degrees, breaking a 19-year-old record. Rock Springs, meanwhile, also set a record at 78 degrees, 1 degree above the previous record of 77 set in 2020.

Slightly chillier but also setting a record high was Lander at 81 degrees, just one degree above 80 degrees on the same day last year.

Even Lake Yellowstone registered a new record of 75 degrees for Thursday, 5 degrees above its previous record set in 2004. Typically, temperatures in the Tetons average in the mid-50s for this time of year. 

The heat wave is expected to continue throughout the weekend. 

These data are preliminary and have not undergone final quality control by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) with final assessments accessible at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov.

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Don Day: Wyoming Drought Expected to Persist

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By Averi Hales, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

 La Niña, decreased precipitation, and drought are all phrases producers are hearing more regularly. In an interview with “Wakeup Wyoming”, Meteorologist Don Day said the chance of the ongoing drought continuing through 2022 is eminent, all thanks to the oscillating La Niña pattern.

 “In the western U.S., La Niñas are dry and El Niños are wet,” Day said, noting western states are entering the second year of a La Niña cycle. “Although it may not be as strong, the opportunity for the drought to break this spring and summer is low, as long as we continue to see this La Niña.”

“We’ve seen this before, and this is a pattern that repeats itself. But, we have to get out of this pattern, and honestly I don’t think it will be until 2022,” he said.

The three-month outlooks for temperature and precipitation probability released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for May through June, made April 15, predict a stronger chance of above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation for the time period.

Day explained even though this spring and summer might be warmer and dryer than normal, he doesn’t think it will be as dry as last summer.

The outlook for this summer greatly depends on the moisture the area receives in May.

“May is the wettest month on average in Wyoming and we are not at average, which does not bode well,” Day said. “A lot of the summer’s dryness is going to hinge on what precipitation we get over the next five weeks.”

“May is supposed to be wet, and it will be wet. But, it has to be wetter than normal to put a dent into the drought, and I don’t see it,” he said.

Although snow and rain are in the forecast for the next month, it may not be enough to combat ongoing drought, Day said.

To view climate outlooks, visit cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/long_range/.

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Don Day Wyoming Weather Forecast: Wednesday, May 5, 2021

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Much Of I-80 Closed Due To Winter Conditions

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By Staff Reports, Rock Springs Rocket Miner

Several Wyoming roads are closed due to winter weather conditions and rolling closures on Wednesday, April 14, and the closures are likely to extend into Thursday, April 15. 

Interstate 80 is closed both directions between Rock Springs and Laramie due to winter conditions. The interstate is also closed westbound between Laramie and Cheyenne due to a rolling closure. The estimated opening time is 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday.

In addition, Wyoming Highway 430 is closed to through traffic between Rock Springs and the Colorado state line due to winter conditions, and the opening time is unknown.

Both I-80 and WH-430 were closed earlier on Wednesday, but reopened for much of the afternoon before closing again in the evening.

A winter weather advisory remains in effect through Thursday afternoon, April 15, for most of central and western Wyoming. The heaviest period of snow is expected to be from late Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning.

Total additional snow accumulations of 1 to 4 inches are possible. Blowing snow will be common as a northeast wind will be gusting 35 to 50 mph across Sweetwater County Wednesday into the night.

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Don Day: Spring Is On Spring Break This Week

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State

Many Wyoming residents woke up Wednesday to discover, to either their delight or horror, that snow had fallen overnight.

Thankfully, it wasn’t nearly as bad the blizzard that blanketed much of the state last month, with only a few inches falling across the state over the last 24 hours.

Wyoming weatherman Don Day confirmed this in his Wednesday morning forecast, saying there were really no good days ahead.

“Spring is on spring breaks, folks,” he said. “This is a long stretch of cold and occasionally damp weather. We’re going to have off and on snow, rain, fog through this region through Friday.”

According to the National Weather Service, the most snowfall was seen in the southern portion of the state, with around 3-4 inches having fallen.

However, much of Interstate 80 from Cheyenne to Rock Springs was closed due to the weather conditions, but was expected to open sometime Wednesday afternoon.

Some other local highways, especially in the Laramie and Rawlins area, were closed due to the winter weather conditions.

However, the cold temperatures and snow weren’t only expected for Wednesday.

According to the NWS in Cheyenne, winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings were in effect for much of the area through Friday morning.

Snow would continue to impact the region in multiple waves throughout the next 48 hours, with the worst conditions happening through the nighttime and early morning hours.

Anywhere from three to 10 inches of snow are expected to fall in the lower elevations, with the Snowy Range expected to see 1-2 feet in snow.

In the Arlington and Elk Mountain areas, near blizzard conditions are possible.

“Bottom line: If you have travel plans across the region from now through the remainder of the work week, expect minor to moderate travel impacts due to icy, snow packed roads and low visibilities,” the NWS said. “The most severe conditions will be found along I-80 near Arlington and the Summit area between Laramie and Cheyenne.”

Day added there will be a “modest” break over the weekend from the cold weather before it returns again Monday.

“This cold front, I think, is going to be worse than what we’re experiencing this week,” Day said. “I’ve got no good news for you right now.”

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High Temperature Records Fall Throughout Wyoming as Heat Wave Continues

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

If you thought it was warmer than usual this weekend, you aren’t dreaming. 

Record high temperatures were set across the state on Saturday and Sunday and more records could be toppled on Monday as the unseasonable weather for the area continues.

You know it’s a heat wave when Big Piney, Wyoming — frequently known as the icebox of the nation — hits 70 degrees in April, which it did on Sunday.

Normally this time of year, Big Piney averages 44 degrees for the high temperature.

Records also fell in Buffalo, Casper, Cheyenne, Cody, Lander, Laramie, Rawlins, Riverton, and Rock Springs.

Some of the previous record highs had been around for a long, long time too.

Cheyenne’s high of 76 degrees on Sunday broke a 132-year record as the previous high of 72 degrees had stayed on the record books since 1889 — before Wyoming was a state.

The real hot stuff occurred just to the east of Wyoming where Scottsbluff, Nebraska hit 85 degrees. That beat the former high of 81 degrees which was set back in 1942.

As it’s April in Wyoming, these warm temperatures won’t stick around for long.

As Dubois artist Gary Keimig said on Saturday: “We are in what might be called a false Spring.”

Record high temperatures for some areas of Wyoming will likely continue on Monday before a cold front rushes in and brings more typical April-like weather to Wyoming.

Enjoy it while it lasts…

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Despite Historic Snowstorm, Wyoming’s Drought Still Here

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s dry here.

It may not look it, but much of Wyoming has been declared a primary natural disaster area by the U.S. Department of Agriculture due to continuing drought conditions.

From Goshen County to Carbon, from Albany County to Big Horn, farmers in 19 Wyoming counties have been offered the option to apply for emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met.

Don Day, founder of DayWeather and known as “Wyoming’s Weatherman,” said the trouble began, ironically, around the same time as the pandemic hit.

“Right around this time, last year, March and April, in May, we started to go into what’s called a La Nina,” he said. “And when the Pacific gets colder near the equator, Wyoming and the surrounding region tends to go into drier patterns. But this is the strongest La Nina we’ve seen in 10 to 11 years – and that’s one reason why 2020 started to go dry.”

Day explained that there’s a pattern to the La Nina effect.

“What’s interesting, they’re spaced about every 10 or so years apart,” he said. “We had a similar situation in 2011-2012, and a very similar situation in 1999 to 2001. So there’s cyclical natures to these dry periods.”

David Northrup’s family has farmed in the Powell area for over 100 years, and has seen it all when it comes to weather. And having spent eight years in Wyoming’s House of Representatives, Northrup knows that not everyone understands what farmers in the state go through.

“A lot of the people there are ranching people — and they utilize land in a different way,” he explained. “So that means in the spring, when they’re turning cattle or sheep livestock onto the hillsides, they have to be careful about that and be conscious about that growth.”

But because Wyoming is a rural state, the dry weather pattern will affect more than just agricultural producers. Northrup pointed out that when the grass struggles to grow, people who keep horses for recreational purposes will feel the crunch as well.

“Because even if you got one or two horses sitting in your backyard that you use for recreation, finding hay for them can be just as tough as it is for the guy that’s got five or 600 head of cattle,” he said.

But not every farmer and rancher in the state will be affected by the lack of water from the sky. Northrup pointed out that the canal system devised by Buffalo Bill Cody in the early 1900s has protected Park County agriculture from the worst.

“For us locally here as farmers, we’re pretty well protected,” he said. “Unless we don’t get snow in the mountains — if we don’t get snow in the mountains, then we’re not in a good position.”

Right now the mountain snowpack looks good for this summer, Northrup said.

“We’re over 100% again, which is just a blessing,” he explained, gesturing to the Absaroka and Beartooth mountains. “And you go to the south, and you go down and look at the other side of the Owl Creek mountains, and they are 79%.”

But for the rest of the state, there’s a giant dark blotch on the map that indicates that snowpack is poor, and surface water is inadequate for ranching and farming. That’s despite the big storm that hit much of Wyoming earlier this month. 

Day noted even though the equivalent of up to two inches of rain fell onto the thirsty landscape in some places, because of the ongoing La Nina weather pattern, the drought conditions will most likely continue.

“That has been rather stubborn now going on for better than a year, and the worst ones tend to go two years — and the predictions are right now that at least until early fall, some form of La Nina is going to continue,” Day explained. “And if it does, the spring and summer of 2021, for many parts of the West, may be drier than normal again. So even with this recent, very wet storm for certain parts of the region, it’s not enough to erase the drought.”ge saying if no such plan was developed by mid-2023, the authority would be dissolved.

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Competing Computer Models Predict Wyoming Will Have a Wet Spring Or Dry Spring (Or Both)

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Wet spring, dry spring.

Not the name of a banned Dr. Seuss book, but a question in the minds of many Wyomingites — a number of whom are hoping for the former.

With much of Wyoming experiencing a drought, a rainy (and snowy) few months would help, but even Wyoming’s weatherman, Don Day, isn’t sure what to expect.

The problem, he says, is competing computer modeling.

Day, of course, isn’t the standard “made for TV’ weatherman who bloviates in front of a green screen for three minutes at 5:30 and 10 p.m. 

Day actually explains forecasting and the science behind it — like computer modeling and why it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.

“We are always so suspicious — and you should be — of long-range computer modeling,” Day said on his Tuesday morning weather podcast. 

He said European and Canadian computer models predict a “very dry” spring, but the American computer model, which the National Weather Service puts out, is showing the exact opposite.

“You could’t have more of a disagreement,” Day said.  “So you have to wonder: What does this model see that could make it so wet?”

Day said there’s a difference between sea surface temperatures. He is a big believer in the interaction between sea surface temperatures and weather patterns in the western high plains.

If the predicted temperatures are cooler than average — like the European and the Canadian models show — that means we’ll have a drier than normal spring.

The American model, on the other hand, is showing warmer sea surface temperatures and a near-elimination of La Niña — a weather pattern that makes it drier and warmer over our area. El Niño produces the opposite effect.

Which model does Day believe?  He’s going for majority rule.

“It’s more likely that the European and the Canadian models are correct,” he said explaining that sea surface temperatures are cooling right now along the west coast.

“While La Niña is weakening near the equator, it’s still there, it’s not gone,” he said. “And for the last 90 days, the whole eastern Pacific has cooled off.”

So, in order for the American model to be correct, something has to reverse that trend and he doesn’t see it.

At the same time, however, Day acknowledges that his speculation is just that — speculation.

“You should be very skeptical of all climate and meteorological models that look out over five days,” he said. 

Day did say, however, that the historic snowstorm that hit much of Wyoming earlier this month was helpful.

“It was a godsend,” Day said. “It really helped us out. But we’re not out of the drought yet.”

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Gordon Declares State of Emergency Due to Historic Blizzard

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Three days after a major snowstorm hit southeast Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon declared a state of emergency on Wednesday.

The emergency declaration allows the director of the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security to mobilize state and federal personnel and resources and to help get the state back up and running after the storm that dropped more than 30 inches of snow on some areas.

It also directs the Adjutant General, in consultation with WOHS and Gordon, to deploy, if needed, the Wyoming National Guard to areas of the state that have been identified for emergency assistance.

No Guard members had been activated as of Wednesday morning.

“The scale and intensity of this storm have caused severe impacts to our transportation infrastructure and agriculture producers,” Gordon said. “As the scope of the situation unfolds and with the possibility of flooding as temperatures warm, it’s imperative we make all our resources available to respond to the needs in our communities.”

The snowstorm over the weekend delivered more than 30 inches of wet, heavy snow to southeast Wyoming, closing Interstates 25 and 80, causing power outages and leading to the closure of city, county and state offices and school districts for multiple days.

The impacts of the storm prompted several counties to ask Gordon for the emergency declaration, he said.

While Interstate 25 opened Wednesday morning, Interstate 80 between Cheyenne and Laramie remained closed, as did state and city offices in Cheyenne. Many secondary roads in southeastern Wyoming remained closed Wednesday.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins urged patience from residents who were ready to leave their homes after being trapped for days.

“I know that a lot are restless today,” Collins said via videoconference. “We’ve been stuck for three days now and we all want to get out. But our police department would ask you not to get out in your cars and become part of the problem.”

Collins said Interim Fire Chief John Kopper compared the community to a zombie apocalypse, with people walking to supermarkets in the middle of the street because there’s no other place to walk.

“Please be patient,” Collins said. “We’re doing our best and we’re gonna get there, I promise. We’re using everything and every available asset that we have to get the streets cleared, and try to get the city back to normal.”

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Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins: “It’s Like the Zombie Apocalypse Out There”

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It’s going to take awhile for the City of Cheyenne to open up again.

Still reeling from the blizzard that dumped more than 30 inches of snow on its streets over the weekend, Wyoming’s capital city, for the most part, is still closed and the mayor of Cheyenne is urging patience.

“I know that a lot are restless today,” Collins said via videoconference. “We’ve been stuck for three days now and we all want to get out. But our police department would ask you not to get out in your cars and become part of the problem.”

City officials announced city offices would be closed for a third consecutive day Wednesday as crews continue their work to clear the streets. Residents were asked to remain in their homes to leave the streets clear for snowplows.

Collins said Interim Fire Chief John Kopper compared the community to a zombie apocalypse, with people walking to supermarkets in the middle of the street because there’s no other place to walk.

Because the temperatures have hovered around the freezing point during the day, there’s been very little melting. So the 30-plus inches of snow has stayed put. And that’s a lot of snow.

The problem, Collins said, is not so much the plowing of the snow — it’s where to put the snow. Everything is full of — snow.

So the plan, the mayor said, is to bulldoze an 8-foot wide path down every residential street. The rest is up to the community.

“That means you’re going to have to dig out to get to it, but with the 2 or 3 feet of snow that’s there, we’re not going to be able to do much more than that,” Collins said.

The emphasis will continue to be public safety, he said.

Collins thanked Janine West, the director of Laramie County Emergency Management Office, who set up agreements with more than 25 Cheyenne snowmobilers who have been taking police and fire department workers back and forth to work.

“They’ve been really heroic in helping us get people where they need to go. So I just wanted to say thank you to Janine and her crew for helping coordinate everything,” he said.

Collins didn’t have a timeline as to when residential streets would be open but he did say every street was eventually going to be plowed.

“Please be patient,” Collins said. “We’re doing our best and we’re gonna get there, I promise. We’re using everything and every available asset that we have to get the streets cleared, and try to get the city back to normal.”

Don’t expect a lot of melting over the next 7 to 10 days as the high temperatures will mostly be in the mid- to upper 30s, although 47 degrees is the predicted high for Saturday.

The cooler temperatures are probably best as flooding, hopefully, will be kept to a minimum.

The harsh conditions won’t be stopping the Wyoming State Legislature from going back in session.

Committee meetings will begin at 8 a.m. Wednesday and lawmakers will be gaveled for proceedings in the House and Seante chambers at 10 am. Zoom will be an option.

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Cheyenne Gym’s Roof Collapses After Major Snowstorm

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne gym’s roof collapsed due to the nearly 3 feet of snowfall that blanketed the city over the weekend.

CrossFit Frontier was one of the casualties of the recent blizzard, which shut down much of southeastern Wyoming for a second day on Tuesday.

Half of the gym’s roof collapsed on Monday night, the gym said in a social media post.

“Obviously we will be closed for the foreseeable future,” the post said. “We appreciate everyone’s willingness to help with moving things from the gym. However, at this time it is still not safe to be inside as there is still a lot of snow accumulated on the non collapsed side of the building.”

It didn’t appear anyone was hurt when the roof collapsed and all classes had been canceled at the gym on Monday.

The gym’s current location is in the 2400 block of East Seventh Street in Cheyenne, but obviously, a move will be in the business’ future. CrossFit Frontier has been open since 2011, according to its website.

“In the mean time be on the look out for more at home workouts to get you through until we can get reopened,” the gym wrote. “As always, thank you all for your love and support.”

Much of southeastern Wyoming has been affected by the storm in one way or another. Although portions of central and western Wyoming began to see traffic move again on the state’s highways on Tuesday, roads in and out of Cheyenne remained blocked by the heavy snow dropped by the blizzard.

Government offices and schools remained closed in Cheyenne on Tuesday and the Legislature, which rarely stops its work because of weather conditions, suspended proceedings for a second day as the city continued its efforts to clear the roads around the community.

The weekend blizzard left 31 inches of snow on Cheyenne, breaking a 42-year-old record, and the Cheyenne Police Department, on its Facebook page, predicted it could take city snowplow crews several days to finish clearing snow from the community’s roads.

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UW Classes Resume In Wake Of Storm That Leaves Highways Closed

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Classes at the University of Wyoming resumed Tuesday as southeastern Wyoming continued to dig out from a winter storm that left record-breaking snow depths in its wake.

Even though highways around Laramie remained closed Tuesday, classes resumed at the UW one day after the snowstorm shut down the campus Monday for both online and in-person classes.

However, the university encouraged employees who were able to work from home to do so to give UW workers extra time to dig out from the more than 18 inches of snow fell Laramie during the blizzard.

Laramie resident Sarah Froehlich said it wasn’t necessarily the amount of snow that fell that caused the worst of the problems — it was the blowing and drifting.

“On Saturday night the wind was horrible! I’ve never heard it that bad,” she said. “It kept me up that night. You could hear the snow hitting the screens and windows.”

Froehlich added that the roads in town are still drifted, except for the main streets, and added the closed roads could be keeping some businesses closed.

“I think the drifting has been the worst issue, people just can’t get out,” she said.

Although the UW was open Tuesday, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported the Laramie campus of Laramie County Community College remained closed.

Highways to the northwest, southeast and northeast were still closed as of Tuesday afternoon, and WYDOT updates warned that portions of Interstate 80 between Rawlins and the Nebraska border may not be open until sometime Wednesday.

But it’s not just people who are suffering because of the storm. 

The Albany County Emergency Management office released a notice that some ranchers are having trouble feeding their livestock, due to hay shortages or inability to access the animals because of the storm. 

The office is offering to help to anyone who may be experiencing such difficulties. 

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Southeast Wyoming Shuts Down For Another Day, Warmer Temps Predicted

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s southeastern corner remained cut off from the rest of the world Tuesday as the state continued its efforts to dig out from Sunday’s record-breaking snowstorm.

Although portions of central and western Wyoming began to see traffic move again on the state’s highways, roads in and out of Cheyenne remained blocked by the heavy snow dropped by the blizzard.

The storm forced the closure of Interstate 80 from Cheyenne west to Rock Springs and Interstate 25 from Cheyenne north to Buffalo on Sunday, but by Tuesday, roads north of Casper and west of Rawlins had reopened.

Interstate 25 between Cheyenne and Casper was expected to open Tuesday, but I80 west of Cheyenne was not expected to reopen until Wednesday.

Government offices and schools remained closed in Cheyenne on Tuesday and the Legislature, which rarely stops its work because of weather conditions, suspended proceedings for a second day as the city continued its efforts to clear the roads around the community.

The weekend blizzard left 31 inches of snow on Cheyenne, breaking a 42-year-old record, and the Cheyenne Police Department, on its Facebook page, predicted it could take city snowplow crews several days to finish clearing snow from the community’s roads.

Schools and offices were also closed in Goshen and Natrona counties, along with Wheatland.

Pine Bluffs, where 20 inches of snow fell during the weekend, had students attend school in virtual classrooms.

Weather conditions were expected to remain cool and unsettled until warming up on Thursday, according to meteorologist Don Day of DayWeather.

Day, in his daily podcast, said the state could expect some significant snow melting by Saturday.

“Between Thursday and Saturday we’re going to have a nice warm up, the snow will be melting, the sun will be out,” he said. “Unfortunately, don’t get used to it.”

Day said another storm front moving into the region from the Pacific could bring more rain and snow to the area.

“We may have a developing system on the plains Sunday night into Monday that will produce some rain and snow east of the (Continental) Divide in some areas,” he said. “Then there is another storm system possibly to contend with by the middle of next week.”

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Californian Driving Mini Cooper Causes Four-Hour Delay & Numerous Wrecks On I-80

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A Californian driving a Mini Cooper through Sunday’s blizzard caused some major problems in Laramie area when he ventured out on Interstate 80.

A Wyoming State Trooper called Wyoming air personality Glenn Woods’ radio program Monday morning to discuss the impact of the Californian who mistakenly went out on the Interstate to see if the roads were fit for a Mini Cooper.

They weren’t, of course, and the Californian got stuck on the Interstate.

At least two snowplow drivers who were trying to avoid the Mini Cooper got in an accident which halted cleanup activity in the area.

Subsequently all of the snowplows were then stuck on I-80 until the wreckage could be moved from the road which severely impacted all cleanup efforts for miles.

“Because of this one individual, our entire fleet of plow trucks were landlocked,” the trooper said. “This cost thousands of dollars to the truckers and really hampered snow removal efforts.”

But it didn’t stop there. Because this portion of the Interstate was closed, drivers tried to divert away from the closure by going through Laramie itself.

Problem was, the roads were worse inside the city than on the Interstate. 

“These drivers got stranded in drifts all over Grand Avenue,” the trooper said.  

The exasperated trooper said it took more than four hours to clean up the mess created by the Californian. Plus, numerous snow plows — instead of plowing roads — were sidelined during the ordeal.

“If we can keep the plows moving, we stand a better chance of keeping up with the storm,” he said. “Once you gridlock us, we’re done.”

Sadly, the Californian was not arrested but was ticketed and had to pay the cost for the tow back to Laramie.

“When you get those tow bills as a result of these bad decisions, that’s quite a punishment in itself,” the trooper said.

Hopefully there’s a comma in that tow bill.

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Snow So Deep In Cheyenne, Emergency Management Asks Citizens For Snowmobiles

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The snow in Cheyenne was so deep following Sunday’s record-breaking storm that the Cheyenne-Laramie County Emergency Management Department put out a call for civilian help.

According to a social media post, the department was in need of people who own snowmobiles and/or tracked vehicles, ones that have rubber/other material tracks which make it easier to travel on snow, to help with shift changes at emergency response agencies.

Our Public Safety crews throughout the City and County need assistance getting a shift change done.” the post said. “Our Law Enforcement, Fire Department personnel, EMS Crews, and 911 Dispatchers have been working countless hours responding to every call they can and need a shift change.”

While Cheyenne’s public safety crews were helping with the shift changes, the civilian vehicles would be of incredible assistance, and could also be used for 911 responses, the post said.

Anyone in the Cheyenne or Laramie County area with this type of vehicle was encouraged to contact the department at 307-775-7360.

Cheyenne, like much of Wyoming, was pummeled with snow over the weekend, receiving 30.8 inches as of Monday morning. The National Weather Service said Sunday Cheyenne broke a two-day snowfall record this weekend.

The heavy snow prompted closures for all state government offices in Cheyenne on Monday, the University of Wyoming, all schools in Laramie and Natrona counties, as well as city offices in both locations.

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Gordon Closes State Offices Again on Tuesday; City Continues To Dig-Out From Blizzard

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon on Monday praised Wyoming’s response to the major snowstorm that left much of the state’s shut down.

Gordon said state offices in Cheyenne would again be closed on Tuesday due to record-breaking snowfall in Cheyenne, nearly 31 inches.

“I want to thank our first responders, public safety employees and hospital workers, as well as the plow drivers who have been working long stretches without relief during this storm,” Gordon said. “Throughout the state we’ve heard numerous stories of neighbors helping neighbors. I couldn’t be more proud of how our Wyoming people have responded to this storm.”

The Wyoming Department of Transportation and Wyoming Highway Patrol have each had their hands full with helping clear roads and save stranded motorists since the storm that hit the state Saturday and Sunday.

In Cheyenne, the snow was so deep that the Cheyenne-Laramie County Emergency Management Department even had to call in for citizen help, something else Gordon praised.

“In Laramie County, we’ve seen an army of snowmobile volunteers step up to shuttle doctors and nurses to the hospital and public safety workers to their jobs,” he said.

Additionally, the governor asked people to continue staying off the roads and avoid non-essential travel, due to several feet of wet, heavy snow impacting the interstates and local roads across much of the southeastern portion of the state.

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Casper Area At Risk For Flooding Following Record-Breaking Snow

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Casper area is at risk for potential flooding due to the high amount of snow that blanketed central Wyoming over the weekend.

According to the National Weather Service in Riverton, Casper has seen 26.3 inches of snow since Saturday. This amounts to around 2.14 inches of water from the snow.

With temperatures expected to be in the upper 30s to mid-40s this week in the Casper area, there is a possibility of low-elevation snowmelt flooding.

“If you live in a low-lying area that is prone to flooding or standing water, take extra precautions,” the NWS wrote on its Facebook page late Sunday.

The ground in many areas is still frozen, which can cause low-lying areas to fill with water quickly.

According to the United States Geological Survey, rapid snowmelt can also trigger landslides and debris flows. In combination with specific weather conditions, such as excessive rainfall on melting snow, it may even be a major cause of floods.

Last week, the NWS also warned of a possibility of ice jam flooding coming as a result of rising temperatures.

An ice jam develops when pieces of floating ice accumulate to obstruct the river flow. The water that’s held back behind the temporary dam could potentially cause flooding or flash flooding upstream.

Ice jams in Wyoming are most common from mid-February through early April and are seen in most rivers, but especially in the Green, Wind and Big Horn River Basins.

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Southeastern Wyoming Schools, Offices Closed After Historic Storm

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Roads, government offices and schools remained closed across southeastern Wyoming on Monday as the state recovered from a record-breaking winter storm that forced even snowplows off of the highways.

As of Monday morning, highways remained closed from the Nebraska border west to Rawlins and the Colorado border north to Buffalo.

During the peak of the storm on Sunday, the Wyoming Transportation Department suspended plowing operations on Interstate 80 as the snow and brisk winds pushed snow back onto freshly plowed roads.

With many roads remaining impassable Monday morning, government offices and schools closed from Cheyenne and Laramie to Casper. In Laramie, the University of Wyoming was also closed.

Even Wyoming’s Legislature, which rarely closes because of the weather, suspended operations on Monday.

“With weather conditions unsafe for travel, all state of Wyoming facilities in Laramie County will be closed on Monday, March 15, state offices will be closed and the Wyoming Legislature will not meet,” Gov. Mark Gordon said in a Facebook posting. “With most roads impassable, we continue to recommend no unnecessary travel in the portions of the state impacted by this historic storm. Stay safe Wyoming!”

The blizzard began dropping snow on the southeastern half of the state Saturday night and continued through most of Sunday.

Snow accumulations from the storm ranged from 9 inches in Rawlins to 20 inches in Pine Bluffs, 26 inches in Casper, 28 inches in Wheatland and 30.8 inches in Cheyenne, a record for a two-day snowfall.

At the height of the storm, Interstate 80 was closed from Cheyenne west to Rock Springs, but crews were able to open the stretch between Rawlins and Rock Springs by Monday morning. The Transportation Department predicted much of the rest of I80 and I25 would be open by Monday night.

Conditions across the state were expected to improve slowly over the week, according to meteorologist Don Day of DayWeather.

Day said an approaching front would keep Wyoming’s weather cool and unsettled until the middle of the week, when a warm front will move into the state.

“If you want to know when the big melt is, the big melt starts Thursday and Friday and into early Saturday, as southwest winds will bring much warmer air in and that’s going to be able to start to melt the snow,” he said. “It’s really not until the end of the week before we see any significant warm up or any significant melting.”

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Wyoming Blizzard: Snow Records Broken, Motorists Stranded, Snowplows Give Up

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s official, at least in Wyoming’s capital city anyway. This weekend’s snowstorm is a record-breaker.

With 26 inches of snow on Cheyenne by mid-day Sunday, the National Weather Service said the city broke a two-day snow total record beating the past amount of 25.2 inches recorded back in 1979.

The heavy snow prompted closures for all state government offices in Cheyenne on Monday, the University of Wyoming, all schools in Laramie and Natrona counties, as well as city offices in both locations.

“Conditions are brutal out there folks,” Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) officials said. “These heavy winds and snowfall are creating massive drifts on the roads and whiteout conditions.”

It’s so bad, WYDOT said, that immediately after drifts are plowed, they fill up again.

“WYDOT will need rotary plows (typically used to clear WYO 130 of snow in the spring) to clear drifts accumulating on portions of I-80,” they said.

To that end, crews in some areas have suspended operations.

“Due to overwhelming snow and lack of visibility we have decided to suspend our plowing operations in the Casper area. We’ve had several plows drive off the roadway due to limited to zero visibility,” the department said.

Same goes for the City of Casper. If you get stuck, you’re stuck.

“City crews are not available to assist stranded motorists. If you have a true emergency, call 911,” the city announced.

Despite most roads in the affected areas being closed — including all of Interstate 80 and Interstate 25 — the Wyoming Highway Patrol said they were fielding calls from many motorists who were stranded.

Photos shared by the Highway Patrol appeared to show a tow truck trying to rescue another tow truck in very difficult conditions.

“Please stay home and off the roadways,” the patrol said.  “Many roads are impassable, causing dangerous conditions for crews to assist you if you become stranded.”

By mid-afternoon Sunday, power outages were still being reported in affected areas.

At 12:50pm Black Hills Energy reported 4,000 customers in northern Cheyenne and rural areas west of Cheyenne were affected.

“Hazardous road conditions are currently creating challenges for our crews as they work to make repairs and restore service,” the company said in a statement. “We’ll continue our restoration efforts and keep our customers informed through text messages and continual updates to our website, Facebook and Twitter.”

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Parts of Wyoming Shellacked By Winter Blizzard; More Than 3 Feet And Storm Still Going

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Most of Wyoming found itself cut off from the rest of the world Sunday as a strong storm meteorologists had predicted for days reached the state, closing highways and shutting off power to some areas.

Much of the state was under a blizzard warning Sunday as the storm dropped more than 37 inches of snow on some areas by Sunday morning.

Brisk winds gusting to 40 mph in Cheyenne and 19 mph in Casper mixed with the snow to reduce visibility to near zero across much of the southeastern half of the state and shut down travel from Rock Springs along Interstate 80 to Cheyenne and from Cheyenne north on Interstate 25 to Buffalo.

A number of state highways running north from the Colorado border to Newcastle and west from Nebraska to Lander were also closed.

Power outages were reported across the state. Rocky Mountain Power reported that more than 1,100 people were without power near Casper, Black Hills Power in Cheyenne reported an outage affecting almost 1,700 and High West Energy said almost 1,000 of its customers in eastern Laramie County lost power.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for much of the state, from Cheyenne west to Rawlins and north to Douglas, in the face of the storm expected to continue bringing snow and high winds to the state’s southeastern corner through Monday morning.

Residents were urged to stay off of the highways due to winter conditions, with the Cheyenne Police Department going so far as to issue a “shelter in place” advisory.

Snow accumulations ranged from 10 inches in Casper and 20 inches in Cheyenne to 27 inches in the Laramie foothills and 37 inches on Casper Mountain.

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National Weather Service in Riverton Warns of Ice Jam Flooding

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The National Weather Service in Riverton is warning residents about potential ice jam flooding that could come as a result of rising temperatures.

“Spring is around the corner. Along with warming temperatures it is also the prime time for the breaking up of river ice which has the potential to form ice jams and related flooding events,” the office wrote in a post on social media. “Be Safe…Be Prepared.”

An ice jam develops when pieces of floating ice accumulate to obstruct the river flow. The water that’s held back behind the temporary dam could potentially cause flooding or flash flooding upstream.

If the obstruction breaks, there could be flash flooding downstream.

Ice jams in Wyoming are most common between mid-February through early April and are seen in most rivers, but especially in the Green, Wind and Big Horn River Basins.

According to the Casper Star-Tribune, there was an ice jam flood in the Big Horn Basin in 2017 which forced the evacuation of more than 100 homes and businesses, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

Major flooding events in Wyoming are relatively rare, with the last occurring in 2011, according to the NWS, and causing $5 million in damages.

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Teton Search And Rescue Called Out More in 2021 Than All Of Last Season

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By Tom Ninneman, Cowboy State Daily

Teton County’s Search and Rescue Team has been involved in more active missions since Jan. 1 than it was through all of the 2019-2020 winter season, officials have announced.

Since the beginning of the year, the team has been called out 31 times — responding to events including five fatalities, three involving avalanches.

Of the 31 responses, 24 resulted in active missions, more than during the entire previous winter season.

Specifically, Search and Rescue has performed ten missions over the past nine days. 

Not only have the missions this winter been frequent, they have also been mentally and physically demanding for the volunteers. 

Nine of the calls have resulted in short-haul operations, during which volunteers are inserted on-scene via a long line beneath a helicopter. 

Three people have died in avalanches in northwestern Wyoming since mid-February, two snowboarders and one snowmobiler.

The deaths prompted the Teton County Search and Rescue to stress the importance of being prepared, practiced, and present. 

The team urges patience to give the new snow time to settle, and no matter what your activity is, take the necessary precautions to ensure that you can return home safely at the end of the day. 

Search and Rescue Chief Advisor Cody Lockhart explains that the seriousness of these frequent accidents does take a toll on the rescue team and often puts them at risk when recovering injured parties from the scenes of incidents.

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Wyoming Wind Pushes Amazon Semi, Other Vehicles Off Interstate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming winds gusting more than 70 mph almost pushed an Amazon semi-trailer off of a bridge on Interstate 25 south of Chugwater on Monday.

The driver’s status was unknown as of Monday morning, as the Wyoming Department of Transportation noted on its social media that the Wyoming Highway Patrol was still investigating the incident.

The accident was one of several caused by strong winds, which forced the closure of Interstate 80 between Evanston and Laramie through most of Sunday and early Monday.

Central and southeastern Wyoming, from Cheyenne to Casper and west past Rawlins and nearly to Lander were under a high wind warning on Monday, with crosswinds of 60 to 80 mph possible until the late afternoon.

Interstate 25 southbound was closed near Wheatland after a semi-truck crashed and blocked lanes.

A wind warning was also in place for northwestern Wyoming, including Cody, while the area west of Dubois was under advisories for snow showers, slick roads and blowing snow.

U.S. Highway 30 between Granger and Laramie was also closed, as was U.S. Highway 287 between Rawlins and Laramie.

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Snowboarder Killed in Teton County Avalanche

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By Tom Ninnneman, Cowboy State Daily

Another person recreating in the backcountry of northwestern Wyoming has died as the result of an avalanche. 

Teton County Search and Rescue said Michael McKelvey, 31, a seasonal resident of Jackson, died after being caught in an avalanche Thursday near Wind River Lake near the top of Togwotee Pass.

He was the second person this week to die from injuries suffered in an avalanche in northwestern Wyoming.

Teton County Search and Rescue said its members were notified just after noon Thursday of a snowboarder buried in an avalanche.

Search and Rescue Chief Advisor Cody Lockhart says a group of snowboarders had built a substantial “kicker” to launch up toward a slope, and when McKelvey landed, it triggered the slide, which Lockhart described as having a 5-foot crown. 

McKelvey was totally buried, Lockhart said. He added McKelvey was wearing a beacon and his companions were able to uncover him and begin life support efforts. 

Members of Teton County Search and Rescue were training on snowmobiles a short distance away and were on the scene within 10 to 15 minutes. 

Team members continued efforts to resuscitate McKelvey and restored a pulse until he was short-hauled to an ambulance which took him to the airport to be flown to Idaho Falls.  He later died at the hospital. 

The death occurred one day after an avalanche in Lincoln County claimed the life of a Michigan man who was part of a snowmobiling group.

According to reports, one of the riders in that incident triggered an avalanche that caught and covered Greg Stanczak of Ironwood, Michigan.

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Cold Temps, Snow Prevent COVID Vaccines From Getting to Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

National weather issues are temporarily preventing some shipments to Wyoming and other states of vaccines intended to help prevent future coronavirus infections, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

WDH is not expecting any Moderna vaccine doses to be delivered to any of its state locations this week due to the weather problems in other states.

Wyoming was slated to receive 5,700 first doses and 3,700 second doses for its distribution process. Shipments to the Walmart locations currently involved in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program are also affected.

“At this point, we are awaiting updates from our federal partners about next week’s shipments,” said Angie Van Houten, Community Health Section chief with WDH.

 As efforts to provide free, safe and effective vaccinations continue, more than 93,000 Wyoming residents have received their first dose so far when state and special federal counts are combined.

“Unfortunately, while we don’t have details available, we expect distribution plans and appointments in many of our counties may be affected in the coming days,” Van Houten said. “As we get more information from the national level, we will let our county and healthcare provider partners know what they can plan to receive and when.”

Each of the currently authorized coronavirus vaccines requires two doses for maximum effectiveness.

 “While availability of vaccine compared to current demand has been an ongoing issue, it’s frustrating to face this issue right now,” Van Houten said. “We have to ask people to stay tuned for state and local updates.”

Because some of the affected vaccine shipments included second doses, Van Houten noted individuals who are delayed in receiving their second dose can still receive the vaccine when it is available.

“There will not be a need to ‘start over,’” she said.

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