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Storm makes travel around southeastern Wyoming difficult

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By Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Highway Patrol urged drivers in southeastern Wyoming to stay off of roads as a strong storm blasting the region with snow and brisk winds left highways icy.

Sgt. Jeremy Beck of the Wyoming Highway Patrol said although the snow that fell during the day Wednesday only left roads wet, dropping temperatures would turn that water to ice.

“We’re expecting the temperatures to drop a little bit and that will cause all the melted snow that’s on the roadway right now to freeze up, which will cause the roadways to get pretty slippery and icy and … hazardous for people to drive on,” he said. “It’s very hard to maintain traction on icy roads and also, once you get some snow over the top of that, it can really cause … treacherous driving.”

Most highways in eastern Wyoming remained open on Wednesday evening, although Interstate 80 east of Cheyenne was closed because of weather conditions in Nebraska.

As the storm hit eastern Wyoming, schools and government offices in Cheyenne, Torrington and Gillette were closed and Goshen County School District officials announced that classes would be canceled for Thursday.

The storm was expected to continue through Wednesday and into Thursday, with more snow and high winds expected overnight. Snow was predicted to taper off on Thursday before ending on Friday.

Schools close in advance of predicted blizzard

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By Cowboy State Daily

Schools in eastern Wyoming closed Wednesday in anticipation of a winter storm expected to bring blizzard conditions to portions of the state.

Schools in Goshen and Campbell counties were closed and Laramie County schools were set to release students early in the face of the storm expected to drop from 4 to 8 inches of snow on Cheyenne and up to 15 inches of snow on Lusk.

Heavy, wet snow began falling in eastern Wyoming on Wednesday morning, but Jeff Garmon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cheyenne, said as temperatures dropped through the day, the snow would become less wet and more prone to being pushed by winds expected to gust to 55 mph in some areas.

“It’s going to be a little deceptive,” he said. “We expect conditions this afternoon to start going downhill.”

A blizzard warning was in effect for southeastern Wyoming from Laramie and Cheyenne north to Torrington and Wheatland, while most of the rest of eastern Wyoming was under a winter storm warning.

Highways remained open throughout the state Wednesday morning, but roads around Cheyenne and Torrington were reported to be slick in spots.

The predicted high winds prompted the Weather Service to issue the blizzard warning for southeastern Wyoming and the Nebraska Panhandle, Garmon said.

He added that while snowfall had tapered off Wednesday morning, the fluffier, lighter snow was expected to move north into the region by the afternoon, creating blizzard conditions.

“I’d say by 3 p.m., things will look a lot different,” he said. “You can’t judge it by what’s outside the window right now.”

Another blizzard poised to hammer southeast Wyoming

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By Cowboy State Daily

Residents of southeastern Wyoming braced for yet another blast of snowy and windy weather as a blizzard warning went into effect in advance of a strong storm expected to bring up to 12 inches of new snow to the region by Thursday.

The National Weather Service issued the blizzard warning for Goshen, Laramie and part of Albany counties on Tuesday, warning residents that freezing rain would precede the snow and wind on Wednesday, making travel difficult.

Much of the rest of the state was under a winter storm warning.

The storm hit less than a month after a blizzard that paralyzed southeastern Wyoming in mid-March and less than 24 hours after mild weather that saw temperatures reach the 70s on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, when we have these big warm-ups this time of year, that’s an indication there’s something bad coming,” said Don Day, a meteorologist and owner of Day Weather.

Day said this week’s storm may not be as strong as the one seen in March, but it will still have an impact.

“It’s going to be very difficult to top that storm (in mid-March),” he said. “This one on its own, though, will be pretty strong.”

Forecasts called for snowfall to range from 6 to 12 inches in Cheyenne to 4 to 10 inches in Douglas and 7 to 15 inches in Lusk.

Day said the winds accompanying the storm, expected to gust to 55 mph, would cause most of the problems.

“We have seen storms that have dropped more snow in the past, but we’re going to have just enough snow with a lot of wind again,” he said. “And the wind is going to cause probably the biggest problems with the blowing and drifting of the snow.”

The weather will create dangerous conditions for livestock, Day said, especially for ranches that were hit by the last blizzard.

“A lot of folks who took it hard are going to get hit hard again,” he said.

Conditions are expected to improve by Saturday, when high temperatures will reach the high 40s and low 50s.

In Brief: Wyoming braces for another blast of winter-like weather

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Wyoming slammed with blizzard
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By Cowboy State Daily

UPDATE (1:30 PM): The US National Weather Service Cheyenne Wyoming has just issued a blizzard warning, in effect from noon Wednesday to 3 PM Thursday, for large parts of southeast Wyoming:

“Blizzard conditions are expected with total snow accumulations of 6 to 13 inches and winds gusting as high as 55 mph,” according to the NWS warning. “Travel could be very difficult. Areas of blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility. Roads will be slick. The hazardous conditions could impact the morning or evening commute.”

Wyoming Department of Transportation public information officer Jeff Goetz tweeted the following guidance for Wyoming travelers in eastern Wyoming:

WDOT information officer Jeff Goetz: In NWS briefing - tomorrow isn't going to be good. Starting at midnight look for freezing rain.  9 a.m. on wind and snow picks up throughout the day Casper and areas east and south into Neb. May see up to 18 inches Torrington area. All east of I-25 hardest hit. #wyoroad

Will continue to update this story as we get new information. Stay tuned for the latest.

Wyoming braced for another shot of winter-like weather as a storm warning went into effect for most of the eastern third of the state in anticipation of a weather system expected to hit by Wednesday.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for an area from Cheyenne and Laramie north to Gillette and Sheridan, along with a winter storm watch for most of the rest of the state, in advance of the storm expected to bring up to 5 inches of snow to southern Wyoming and 12 inches to the area around Lusk.

While the storm was not expected to be as severe as the blizzard that shut down much of eastern Wyoming in mid-March, it was predicted to bring heavy, wet snow to the area.

“It’s not quite as strong as the storm on March 13, but it will still pack quite a punch,” said Meteorologist Steve Rubin. “There will be less snow, but it should be more of a wet snow.”

Forecasts called for snow to begin falling in eastern Wyoming by midday Wednesday and continue through Thursday.

Accumulations were predicted to range from 3 to 5 inches in Cheyenne and 5 to 11 inches in Douglas and Gillette to up to 12 inches in Lusk.

Snow was expected to fall across most of the rest of the state by Wednesday, but heavy snowfall was predicted only in the mountains outside of eastern Wyoming.

After the storm, the National Weather Service said conditions would improve, with temperatures rising to the 50s by Sunday.

“It’s going to take a few days to warm up,” Rubin said. “It will be a slow warming trend, but it should melt off some of the snow.”

Blizzard impact on ranches varies

in Agriculture/News/weather
Wyoming ranchers prepared for storm
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By Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The Blizzard of 2019 that shut down the state government and area schools had varying impacts on area ranchers.

Jay Berry, the owner of a Berry’s Herefords near Cheyenne, said because his ranch had time to prepare for the storm’s arrival, he was able to get his cattle to shelter behind structures and trees.

“There wasn’t anything that had to stand outside in the last 30 hours that didn’t suffer,” he said. “But basically, getting out of the wind is your No. 1 priority. So we pulled everything in to where they had a hope of getting behind something.”

He also made a point of giving the cattle extra feed in the hours leading up to the storm.

“We tried to feed everything double going into the storm because you just knew how many calories they were going to burn and there was no way you were going to get back to them,” he said. “We were quite lucky, the weatherman gave us plenty of warning.”

The timing of the storm also helped, Berry said, because his heifers had not started calving yet.

“If we had been calving, I don’t know how we could have helped them,” he said. “It could have gone either way for us. If it had been seven days later, it would have been much harder.”

The storm did cause some problems for Jon Kirkbride’s ranches in Chugwater and Meriden.

Although Kirkbride’s heifers are not calving, he said his yearlings got extremely wet and chilled, which made them more prone to pneumonia.

The wet snow that marked the storm is harder on livestock than drier snow seen with storms in January, he said.

In addition, high snowdrifts piled up along fence corners allowed cattle to cross fences and get into other rangeland. Kirkbride said he will be searching for those cattle on Friday.

The family-run King Ranch in Laramie County is well into the calving season, owner Mark Eisele said. While the blizzard made calving duties more difficult and required more work for the ranch operators, it did not affect actual operations.

No newborn calves died as a result of the blizzard, he said, which he attributes to careful planning, advances in technology and learning from past lessons.

“It always means extra work and extra worry” when a blizzard occurs, Eisele said. “I actually plan for this sort of thing (the blizzard) year-round.”

King Ranch makes sure that plenty of hay is available and that the ranch has enough windbreaks, barns and outbuildings to shelter the cattle, he said.

The ranch doesn’t have a lot of natural shelters for cattle, so operators came up with a plan to get all stock sheltered within a two-hour period. It worked well this time as all animals were housed before the storm arrived.

Although King Ranch emerged OK after the storm, Eisele has doubts about some other ranches. 

“I think some people who are just starting to calve and don’t have outbuildings have had a tough last few days,” he said.  “A storm like this can really hurt people pretty bad.”

Advances in technology have reduced the impact of dealing with the blizzard. King Ranch uses round bale feeders that are mounted on trucks and four-wheel drive tractors to reach the cattle.  

“We can put feed out in a hurry and without a lot of physical labor,” Eisele said.

Not everything about the storm was bad.

Scott Sims owns a ranch near McFadden in the Rock Creek Valley.  

“We got close to 15 inches of snow,” but didn’t have the high winds that occurred in Laramie County, he said. “The storm will help with soil moisture.”

Some 30 inches of snow fell at the head of the Rock Creek drainage area. The area is now at 110 percent of normal snowpack. 

“This really is a positive,” he said. 

The storm had very little impact on his ranch, especially since calving there doesn’t begin until April.

Sims said his cattle had no trouble getting fed, given the fact he uses large four-wheel drive tractors to deliver feed. That’s a vast difference from 30 years ago when bulldozers had to plow snow ahead of the feed tractors.

Ride along in a WYDOT snowplow as drivers work to reopen Wyoming roads

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WYDOT snowplow ride along after a blizzard
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There is a lot of manpower – and horsepower – required to get things back up and running after a massive storm.

Our videographer, Mike McCrimmon, rode along with Wyoming Department of Transportation snowplow driver Duard Dillday III today as state transportation workers hustled to clear and reopen Wyoming roads after the #BombCyclone blizzard blanketed the region with heavy snow and severe winds. #wywx

See our extensive coverage of the storm here, here, and here. And be sure to check out our Facebook and Twitter for the latest local updates delivered to your device daily.

Storm brings second day of shutdown for Cheyenne

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Cheyenne residents dig out from bomb cyclone blizzard
Brittney and Bryson Purvis dig out from the blizzard that hit southeastern Wyoming March 13. (Credit: Mike McCrimmon)
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By Cowboy State Daily (Last updated March 14 at 5:50PM)

Traffic began to move again in southeastern Wyoming on Thursday as a major winter storm that swept through the area Wednesday moved out of the region.

After dumping 14 inches of snow in Cheyenne and forcing the closure of schools, government offices and businesses for one to two days, the winds measured at up to 65 mph abated, leaving residents to dig out.

“There is significant digging out to be done with snow drifts much taller than I am,” said Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr. “The best advice I can offer is to stay off the roads and let the city crews continue to clear some pathways.”

Schools, city and county offices and state offices remained closed Thursday as windy conditions continued in the morning, causing snow to drift and reducing visibility.

Also closed for most of Wednesday and Thursday morning were all highways leading in and out of Cheyenne. But by Thursday afternoon, Interstate 25 was open north of Cheyenne. Interstate 80 remained closed east and west of Cheyenne and the state Department of Transportation had no estimate as to when it might open.

The blizzard warning issued by the National Weather Service for eastern and southern Wyoming was due to expire by 6 p.m. and conditions were expected to improve into the weekend, with high temperatures expected to reach the 40s.

The storm was one of the strongest seen in more than a decade, coupling heavy snow with winds gusting to 65 mph.

The storm extended from Denver to the Dakotas, making it the largest seen in almost 40 years.

“I’ve been told that we have not seen a storm of this nature since the Thanksgiving blizzard of 1979 and the 2003 storm,” Gov. Mark Gordon said in a news release. “Reportedly, it has the same intensity as a Category 1 hurricane.”

Update: Highways, offices to remain closed Thursday as major storm pummels Wyoming

in News/weather
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Update from our Robert Geha in the midst of this winter bomb cyclone.

By Cowboy State Daily (Editor’s note: this story will be updated throughout the day. Last updated 7:00PM, March 13, 2019.)

Traffic in southeastern Wyoming ground to a halt on Wednesday as interstate, U.S. and state highways throughout the region were closed by a strong winter storm.

Businesses, schools and government offices in Cheyenne shut down as the storm raged through the region, with heavy snow and winds gusting to more than 50 mph dropping visibility to near zero.

A number, including Laramie County School Districts No. 1 and 2 and the Laramie County government offices, planned to remain closed through Thursday, when the storm hammering an area from Denver to the Dakotas was expected to release its grip on the region.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning through Thursday night for Laramie and Goshen counties and for the western Nebraska panhandle.

The City of Cheyenne, Laramie County School District No. 1 and the Cheyenne Regional Airport made their decisions Tuesday to close for Wednesday and the State of Wyoming followed suit early Wednesday morning, when Gov. Mark Gordon urged people to stay out of the weather.

“This storm has the potential to be particularly dangerous,” he said in a news release. “My advice is to stay put and shelter in place. Stay home, stay off the roads and stay safe and warm.”

Echoing that advice was the state Department of Homeland Security’s Deputy Director Leland Christensen.

“The message from Homeland Security is take care of your family, stay home and no unnecessary travel,” he said. “If there is a problem, rather than venture out, reach out to your officials and see if we can’t get you some help.”

As conditions deteriorated Wednesday, the Wyoming Department of Transportation closed Interstate 80 from Cheyenne west to Rock Springs and north to Buffalo. Accidents dotted Interstate 80 from Cheyenne to Rawlins.

U.S. and state highways throughout southeastern Wyoming were closed due to slick conditions and limited visibility. The Wyoming Transportation Department offered no estimate for when the roads might be open again.

As roads in and out of Cheyenne closed, truck drivers parked at truck stops or on roads nearby and prepared to spend a day or two waiting for the highways to open again.

At the Flying J Travel Center south of Cheyenne, employees said all 195 of the facility’s semi truck parking spaces were full.

“We have lots of drivers here,” said Amanda Gladgo. “They’re parked on the roads, too.”

Scattered power outages were also reported in rural Laramie County and near Glendo.

Storm conditions prompted the Red Cross to open a shelter at the Converse County National Guard Armory.

The storm was predicted to be the most widespread blizzard in almost 40 years, stretching from Denver north through southeastern Wyoming and into the Nebraska panhandle and Dakotas.

The historic nature of the storm drew a crew from The Weather Channel to Cheyenne on Wednesday.

A number of communities across southern and eastern Wyoming joined Cheyenne in shutting down schools and government offices, including Torrington, Laramie, Casper, Newcastle, Glendo and Chugwater. The University of Wyoming closed its classes at about 1 p.m. Wednesday.

A list of items to keep on hand for emergencies

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As a major winter storm bore down on Wyoming on Tuesday, residents were reminded to be prepared for power outages and blocked roads by assembling their own “two-week ready kits.”

The Department of Homeland Security recommends families keep the kits stocked with enough food and water for three days and sufficient supplies of other good for up to two weeks.

“We used to tell people to be ready for three days,” said Kelly Ruiz, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security. “If we have power outages, it could take longer than three days to get it fixed.”

The kits consist of:

  • Water and food to maintain your family for three days,
  • Utensils, plates, cups and a can opener,
  • Clothes (be sure to pack items to keep you warm if you have to go without heat and items that will cover your arms and legs in case you need to evacuate.)
  • Rain gear
  • Durable shoes with thick soles,
  • Sleeping bags or blankets,
  • Cash and/or travelers checks, 
  • Financial plan and documents,
  • Personal hygiene items including toilet paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and moist towlettes,
  • Garbage bags,
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape for doors and windows,
  • Copies of important documents such as driver’s licemses, social security cards and insurance policies,
  • Scissors and/or a knife,
  • Maps of local area and the addresses of the closest shelters,
  • Matches in a waterproof container,
  • Additional tools such as pliers, flares and wrenches,
  • Papers, pens and pencils,
  • Flashlights,
  • A battery or crank operated radio,
  • Extra batteries,
  • First aid kit

Breaking: Schools, government offices close in face of storm predictions

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By Cowboy State Daily

Schools and non-essential government offices in Cheyenne will be closed on Wednesday due to predictions of a winter storm expected to bring up to 20 inches of snow to the high plains by Thursday morning.

Laramie County School District No. 1 officials announced Tuesday that classes would be canceled Wednesday because of the storm forecast to bring winds of up to 65 mph in addition to heavy snow.

“District officials typically do not cancel school based on a weather forecast,” the district said in a news release. “However, in this situation, anticipated storm impacts including heavy snow and sustained wind gusts will take place at the time when school would release. Our primary concern is the safety of our students, parents and staff.”

Cheyenne officials announced non-emergency offices would be closed Wednesday, while the Cheyenne Regional Airport canceled all flights for Wednesday.

“Based on what (the National Weather Service is) telling us, we’re already canceling all commercial flights in anticipation of closing down the airport, probably around mid-morning,” said Nathan Banton, the airport’s general manager for aviation.

The storm moving northeast toward Wyoming was expected to arrive late Tuesday evening, after a day that saw sunny skies and high temperatures in the low to mid-50s.

“We have … what I call a textbook March snowstorm,” said Don Day, a meteorologist and owner of Day Weather. “The type of snowstorm … where we get heavy snow, a lot of wind and then springlike weather before and after.”

Forecasts called for snow reaching 10 to 15 inches across much of the plains, spreading from Denver north to the Nebraska panhandle, with heavier amounts expected in the north, where accumulations could reach 20 inches.

The National Weather Service said the impact from the storm could be the most widespread seen in almost 40 years.

“With this storm, we’ve got 10 to 15 inches of snow over much of the plains and into the Dakotas,” said Richard Emanuel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cheyenne. “So the area of impact is quite broad.”

Government agencies worked through the day Tuesday to make sure emergency measures were in place for the storm.

Jeanine West, director of the Laramie County Emergency Management Agency, said her organization was working with state and county and city officials to determine how best to deal with workers should travel be affected by the snow. In addition, she said the organization was working with the Red Cross to make sure shelters would be ready if needed.

West said her agency was even working to make sure additional parking space would be available should the storm stop truck traffic through Cheyenne.

State officials had not made any decision to close operations in advance of the storm Tuesday, but were keeping a close eye on conditions.

“We’re just watching the weather,” said Rachel Girt, spokeswoman for Gov. Mark Gordon.

Travel conditions were expected to deteriorate through the day Wednesday and Kevin Malatesta, public information officer for the Cheyenne Police Department, urged people to avoid traveling at all during the storm.

“If you really don’t meed to be out on the road, don’t go out on the road,” he said. “You are creating a hazard by being out on the road and tying up resources if you are in an accident. Stay warm, watch some Netflix, knit a sweater, do whatever you need to do, but you don’t need to go out on the road. Things can wait.”

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