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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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Forest Service Warns Not To Destroy Trails By Going Around Mud & Snow

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

In the wake of a late spring snowstorm that hit the state on Friday, the U.S. Forest Service issued a warning of the dangers that can be caused by driving around mud and snow while out in snowy or wet areas.

The U.S. Forest Service in particular called on people planning to visit Bighorn National Forest over the weekend to be sure they stay on roads and trails, since going around snow drifts or mud puddles can cause damage to the route and surrounding vegetation.

“Walking or driving around a snow drift or mud puddle can cause the route to widen,” National Forest spokeswoman Sara Kirol told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “It damages vegetation, can cause soil displacement and widen the puddle or create one. The best choice is to travel single file through the mud puddle or snow drift to protect the integrity of the soil and plant life along the edge.”

Wet trails are more fragile and every tire track or footprint left in the mud can cause more and more erosion, Kirol said.

Noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich said by hiking or biking around the trail, real damage is being done and is ultimately “selfish behavior.”

“Yes, if you are getting chased by a grizzly and you can make faster time by going around a snowy or mud-packed trail to avoid getting eaten, then by all means do it,” Ulrich said.

“If worse comes to worse, trip your friend in the mud puddle and then get out of there,” he continued. “That way you aren’t hurting the trail and you survive. As for your friend, vaya con dios. No harm, no foul.

“But that’s the only exception to the rule. Otherwise, be considerate and either save your excursion for a better day or go through it,” he said.

If a person on the trail cannot how deep a puddle is or how deep a snow drift is, he or she should likely wait until another time to finish the journey, the Forest Service said.

Wyoming Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jordan Achs agreed, particularly about the snow drifts, since she said it is a common occurrence for people to get stuck in them during the snowy season.

“If they get stuck in a drift, it can delay road reopening times because we’re having to get the person unstuck,” Achs said. “Then we have to stick by them for a bit, because sometimes, a car stuck in a drift can make one of its own.”

Even if a drift does not look deep, Achs noted it is surprising how quickly someone can come to be stuck in one.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Wyoming Drought: Winter Storms Helping But Most of State in Severe Drought

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By Tom Ninneman, Cowboy State Daily

Recent winter storms have had a positive impact on the snow-water content in sites measured around the state of Wyoming.  

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, accumulations were highest in the Yellowstone Headwaters area where the snow water equivalent was 110% of normal as of Thursday. 

The Madison Headwaters on the west side of Yellowstone National Park reported 89% of normal. The Shoshone River Basin east of the park measured 109% and the Snake River Basin reporting stations revealed 101% of normal. 

To the south, the upper Green River Basin posted 95% of normal. 

The other side of the state however is still experiencing drought, with the South Platte River Basin reporting 26% of normal snow water equivalent. 

Statewide, Wyoming currently has a snow-water equivalent of nearly 96%.

Despite the extra moisture, however, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that much of the state is in a drought.

As of Tuesday, drought conditions around the state ranged from “abnormally dry” in the state’s northwestern coroner to “extreme drought” in central Wyoming, including parts of Natrona, Fremont, Hot Springs, Washakie, Big Horn, Johnson, Converse and Carbon counties.

According to the Drought Monitor, 22.71% of the state is in extreme drought. Most of the state, 38.25%, is under what the monitor calls a “severe drought. Only 2.2% of the state is not considered to be in a drought.

The Drought Monitor is a joint project of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Drought Mitigation Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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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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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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Avalanche Forecasters Warn of Hazard In Wyoming, Idaho, Montana

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By Tom Ninneman, Cowboy State Daily

Avalanche forecasters are warning of potentially dangerous avalanches in parts of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. 

The Bridger Teton Avalanche Center reports high avalanche danger in the Southwest Trails and Grey’s River area in southwestern Wyoming and reminds people to be careful and follow backcountry safety. 

The Avalanche Center warns that snow immersion is a significant hazard in the backcountry today. It advises recreationists to travel with a partner and always keep in sight of each other.

Travel is not recommended in the area of any slope 30 degrees or steeper. 

Over the weekend, a skier near Big Sky, Montana, was caught in an avalanche and even though he was not completely buried, he died of injuries that he suffered in the incident.

While the general avalanche risk is expected to be moderate in the Teton area where small to large slab avalanches could be human triggered on steep avalanche-prone slopes, the danger should still be taken seriously, the center said. 

It added these slab avalanches could be 2 to 4 feet deep and could be large enough to seriously injure or kill a person. 

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Don Day: “Get Used to the Weather You Have”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyomingites should be ready to stay cold this week, as state weatherman Don Day explained during his Tuesday morning forecast.

“Get used to the weather you have because you have another 48 hours of it,” he said.

This cold, snowy weather will be caused by Pacific and Arctic air masses over the region pushing against each other.

According to the National Weather Service in Riverton, the weather system led to temperatures as low as 15 below zero in Greybull, 12 degrees below zero in Buffalo and 11 below zero in Worland overnight Monday and will continue to keep temperatures frigid across the Big Horn Basin and Johnson County on Tuesday.

In western Wyoming, highs will be in the mid-30s.

Snow showers were expected to spread into western Wyoming on Tuesday, while breezy conditions were predicted across the southern part of the state.

The NWS in Cheyenne issued a wind chill advisory from Douglas to Alliance, Nebraska, for wind chill temperatures as low as 30 degrees below zero.

However, there a high wind warning was also in effect until Tuesday evening for the north Snowy Range Foothills, including Arlington and Elk Mountain, due to west winds with gusts of up to 70 miles per hour.

In addition, a winter weather advisory was in effect until 5 a.m. Wednesday for the Snowy and Sierra Madre ranges, where up to six to 12 inches of new snow and wind gusts of up to 50 mph were expected.

Low temperatures in southeastern Wyoming will drop to around 10 degrees in the Cheyenne area and around 25 degrees in Laramie, the Weather Service said.

Day added that later this week, there will be a push of arctic air to the south and southwest.

“Between late Thursday through Sunday into Monday, we see a lot of areas getting snow,” Day said. “The exact amount of snow, well … we still have some questions.”

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Snow, High Winds Hit Portions Of Wyoming On Monday Night

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Cold temperatures, wind and light snow hit northwestern and southeastern Wyoming this week as more normal November weather returned to the region.

According to the National Weather Service in Cheyenne, most of the week will be cold and feature at least a little bit of snow, at least in the southeast portion of the state.

The NWS reported that around one inch of snow fell in the area from Pine Bluffs to Rawlins, as well as in portions west of Riverton, Lander and the Yellowstone National Park area.

“Unsettled weather as we are in a progressive, fast moving west to east wind pattern,” the NWS said in a report Tuesday morning.

Tuesday would see “very windy” conditions, with wind-prone areas likely seeing gusts up to 70 or 75 mph, the Weather Service said. Gusts of up to 65 MPH were likely on the downslope of the Laramie and Snowy ranges, including cities like Cheyenne, Laramie and Wheatland.

Wyoming weatherman Don Day confirmed this in his Tuesday morning forecast.

“A more typical November pattern is finally settling into the western United States,” Day said.

Northwestern Wyoming will also be hit with snow over this week, but temperatures will begin rise over the weekend and into early next week.

Any truckers with light loads or people towing camper trailers will have difficulty driving across southeast Wyoming on Tuesday.

There will be another chance of strong winds later in the week.

Thursday will likely be the driest day in terms of snow and precipitation.

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Wyoming Weather: October Set Record Cold Temps, Drier Than Normal

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

No, you weren’t just imagining things: it definitely was colder and drier than normal in October, at least for a good portion of Wyoming.

The National Weather Service in Riverton announced Monday morning that its October climate summary showed some record high and low temperatures throughout the month.

Greybull, the Riverton airport, Rock Springs and Worland set cold temperature records last weekend when an early winter storm hit much of the state. Worland was down to -18 from -4 in 2019, Rock Springs was down to -10 from -8 in 2019, Riverton tied with its previous record, -9, from last year and Greybull was down to -8 from 3 in 2019.

It was the fourth coldest October on record for Greybull, fifth for Worland and the Riverton airport and the sixth for Buffalo, the Weather Service said.

Most locations tracked by the Riverton NWS office also received less than an inch of precipitation over the month, with the only exceptions being Lake Yellowstone and Buffalo.

This was the third driest October on record for Big Piney and fourth driest at the Riverton airport.

Wyoming meteorologist Don Day noted in his Monday morning forecast that as Wyoming enters the month of November, it would see warmer temperatures and gorgeous weather.

But then, the winter weather will again arrive.

“This is the way it’s gone this fall, we have these long stretches of above-average temperatures,” Day said. “It’s actually really good, then all of the sudden: the hammer comes down. We get arctic air, we get snowed on and then it gets nice again.”

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Winter Weather Hits Wyoming Over Weekend

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

As Wyoming meteorologist Don Day put it in his Monday morning forecast, the arctic front did not disappoint this weekend.

Wyoming was hit with a cold blast over the weekend, dropping temperatures into the single digits, if not colder, and leaving more than 1 foot of snow in some areas.

Cheyenne and much of southeastern Wyoming saw some of the worst of the snow, with the capital city racking up anywhere from 12 to nearly 15 inches, according to the National Weather Service. This was the recorded snowfall from the Wyoming state line all the way down to Denver, Day said in his forecast.

He added that hopefully the weekend storm would put a stop to fire season and help slow down the Colorado wildfires, especially the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires that are affecting the Front Range.

Snowfall totals varied throughout the state and even throughout certain counties. For example, portions of Teton County only saw 2 inches of snow, whereas other parts received more than a foot.

Not all of the state saw snow, but the whole state definitely saw freezing cold temperatures, some of which were considered all-time lows for October.

According to the National Weather Service office in Riverton, four Wyoming towns broke their records for the coldest temperatures in October for the second year in a row. They were Worland (down to -18 from -4 in 2019), Rock Springs (down to -10 from -8 in 2019), Riverton (which tied with its previous record, -9, from last year) and Greybull (down to -8 from 3 in 2019).

The good news is that this will likely be the last snowstorm Wyoming sees for a little while, Day said in his forecast. He added that a cold front may move in over the weekend, but that he currently wasn’t seeing that happen in his models.

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Almost 8K Wyomingites Without Power Due To Snow

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Video by Cowboy State Daily publisher Bill Sniffin

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Nearly 8,000 Wyomingites across the state were without electricity on Tuesday morning due to the September snow storm that crossed the state.

As of 8:20 a.m. Tuesday, there were 260 outages across Wyoming affecting 7,865 customers, most of them in Rock Springs, according to Rocky Mountain Power’s outage map.

A cluster of 17 outages in Green River was affecting a little more than 2,500 customers. The cause was under investigation.

There were some smaller outage clusters in Riverton, Lander,Casper, Glendo and Douglas affecting hundreds of people.

Cowboy State Daily publisher Bill Sniffin said that he was awoken in the middle of the night Tuesday by rolling power outages and the sound of branches breaking throughout the night.

“The snow is wet and heavy and just weighed all the branches down,” he said. “It’s pretty cold, about 31 degrees. Of the thousands who have power in the Riverton/Lander area, I’m among the hundreds who don’t.”

Many of the power outages were reported either late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. There were no estimates as to when the power might be restored.

Continuing the biblical plagues affecting Wyoming this year, it is unsurprising to find that a lack of lights might be the latest in nature’s bag of tricks.

“So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days.”

Hopefully it won’t be three days before the power is restored.

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Wyoming’s Winter Weather Shuts Down Multiple Roads Across State

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Multiple roadways across Wyoming were closed due to winter weather and resulting wrecks Tuesday, according to updates from the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

On Tuesday morning, Interstate 80 was closed from Cheyenne to Rawlins due to winter conditions. Travel was not advised on the rest of the highway from Rawlins to Evanston due to high winds, drifting snow, limited visiblity and slick conditions. Conditions were particularly bad west of Rock Springs, where the Transportation Department reported an extreme blowover risk.

In addition, crashes blocked westbound lanes of Interstate 80 from Evanston to Lyman, eastbound lanes near Green River and westbound lanes between Wamsutter and Rock Springs.

Other highways closed by the storm included:

  • U.S. Highway 30 from Medicine Bow to Walcott Junction,
  • U.S. Highway 16 west of Buffalo;
  • U.S. Highway 287 between Rawlins and Bairoil;
  • U.S. Highway 189 from Evanston north to Kemmerer;
  • U.S. Highway 191 from Green River south to the Utah state line;
  • Wyoming Highway 220 from Bairoil to Casper;
  • Wyoming Highway 28 south of Lander, and
  • U.S. Highway 20/26 from Casper to Shoshoni.

Every corner of the state was affected by the early snow on Tuesday, although the impact varied from county to county or even town to town.

Forecasts called for up to 17 inches of snow to all in the Wind River area, 13 inches of snow in the Big Horns and a foot of snow in the Snowy Range.

This year, winter isn’t slated to officially begin until Dec. 21. Fall technically begins on Sept. 22.

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National Weather Service Says Cheyenne’s 2020 Summer Was Hottest On Record

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

If you were in Cheyenne over the summer, you may have thought the weather was hotter than usual.

Well, you weren’t wrong, because the National Weather Service has confirmed Cheyenne had its hottest summer ever recorded this year (because it’s 2020).

The NWS office in Cheyenne unveiled a chart tracking the city’s 10 hottest summers, which occurred from the 1930s to the present day.

The average temperature in Cheyenne from June through August this year was 70 degrees, the warmest period recorded since records started being kept. The second warmest period was 69.9 degrees in 2012.

Eight of the 10 warmest summers have occurred since 2000.

2013 saw a dip in its average temperature compared to the year prior, coming in at 68.8 degrees, the same as the summer of 1936.

2016 had the 10th hottest summer on record, averaging 68.5 degrees.

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Snow Possible In Wyoming This Weekend. Because It’s 2020

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State

As the 10 biblical plagues continue to curse Wyoming and the rest of the world, a portion of the state will see another favorite friend: snow.

The National Weather Service in Riverton has issued a hazardous weather outlook for a major chunk of the state, from Yellowstone National Park to Rock Springs, which called for possible snowfall Sunday night.

A strong cold front is expected to bring cooler air to the region, turning the potential rain into snow in the northern mountains Sunday night into Monday morning.

This will result in some “light” snowfall accumulations, as if 2020 hadn’t already been inconvenient enough.

The other hazards the NWS office warned about were critical fire conditions and thunderstorms this weekend.

To be fair, hail was actually one of the 10 plagues, not snow, so we should be fine. Right?

But we have already dealt with bugs, blood and wild animals.

Just sayin’.

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Severe Storm Season Still Here; South Dakota Blasted By Grapefruit-Sized Hail

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Yes, if you go to many supermarkets now you’ll see an array of ceramic jack-o-lanterns, giant inflatable goblins, and other Halloween-related Halloween.

But that doesn’t mean summer is over yet — especially summer weather. And all the evidence you need that summer weather is still here happened over the weekend in South Dakota.

Grapefruit-sized hail, measuring 4.5 inches, and 80 mph winds clobbered areas of the Black Hills on Saturday.

A graphic photo of one of the victims of the hailstorm went viral. The photo showed a baseball-sized hailstone next to her bloodied face.

“Caught in a massive hail storm at Pactola [Reservoir],” Sarah Robinson tweeted.  “No time to run to the car, covered the boys with tubes (thank god we had them) and mom took the hit. Better me than them!”

The National Weather Service in Rapid City called the weather event a “mesoscale convective system.”

Whatever you call it, the Cheyenne Weather Service said the storm was a “sobering reminder to have multiple ways to receive a weather warning, especially if you’re traveling.”

Wyoming’s weatherman Don Day said Wyoming has about one more month where weather like this is possible.

“Severe weather season usually winds down very quickly after the first 10 days of September,” Day said.  “Until then, we still have the risk of hail and heavy rain, strong winds, and tornadoes but once we hit mid late September severe weather goes down significantly.”

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Snow in Mid-June? Yellowstone Expecting Snow on Wednesday

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You know that snowstorm that Laramie had last week? Yellowstone heard about it and said “Hold my beer and watch this.”

Mother Nature continues to ignore the calendar as another cold front heads toward Wyoming, producing what Wyoming meteorologist Don Day calls a “schizophrenic week”.

“It is a week of contrasts,” Day said. “We are going to see what is likely going to be a windy and warm pattern and at the same time a cooler wet one depending on where you are in the Cowboy State.”

Day, acting like John Madden with his own telestrator pencil, highlighted areas in Wyoming that could receive snow on Wednesday. And it’s not just limited to Yellowstone.

“The colder wet weather is going to bring snow to Yellowstone National Park, the Wind River Mountains, and possibly the Big Horns,” Day said.

As for the amount, current forecasts are less than an inch. But in a year of pandemics, murder hornets, and asteroids — all bets are off.

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Don Day: Wyoming Easter Winter Storm Remains on Track

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By Don Day, Cowboy State Daily

An Arctic cold front has just arrived in northern Wyoming early Saturday morning and will continue to move south during the day bringing strong north winds, plunging temperatures and rain changing to snow.

The front will be arriving in central Wyoming near Casper by late morning and the southern border by mid to late afternoon.

Temperatures which were in the 60s and 70s in many areas on Friday will only be in the 20s and 30s for Sunday and Monday with wind chills in the single digits and teens.

The heaviest snow will be in central, northeast and east central areas of the state. Places like Sheridan, Buffalo, Casper, Douglas, Lusk and Lander can expect 4 to 10 inches of snow by mid day Sunday. Snow will also be very heavy (a foot or more) in the Big Horns, Wind Rivers, Laramie Range, Snowy Range and Sierra Madre mountains. Snowfall totals will be lighter in southeast Wyoming with Laramie and Cheyenne expecting 1 to 3″.

Temperatures Sunday night will dip into the single digits and teens with temperatures remaining very cold through Monday. Below average temperatures are expected for all of next week across the Cowboy State.

Travelers and stock growers should be prepared for harsh winter conditions late today through Monday.

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Don Day’s Wyoming Weather Forecast for Monday, February 24

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The following is a rushed transcript of Don Day’s weather forecast for Monday, February 24.

Welcome to Monday, it is February 24. Thanks for tuning in to the Day Weather podcast.

The week starts off cold and blustery across the intermountain west. One two punch of cold fronts will affect us thru mid-week with much colder conditions after what was a pretty decent weekend for many of you before things started to change on Sunday.

Now we are heading back to winter weather again. What I’m going to be outlining here is the snowfall through Thursday across the intermountain west.

Most of Montana, Wyoming, western South Dakota, western Nebraska, and a large part of Colorado will see some snow. The heaviest snow will fall over and near the mountain ranges and you can see just enough snow will be falling on the plains combined with some very strong and cold northwest winds — which will add some wind chill and make roads and highways icy.

This is not a pattern that is going to bring anyone a lot of snow on the plains. It’s nuisance snow — just enough to make roads and highways slick. Just enough that you might have to shovel the sidewalk, the driveway, wipe off the car windshield — that type of snow.

Temperatures are going to be a lot colder over the next two to three days and plenty of wind along and east of the Continental Divide along the wind prone areas.

We will see a bit of a change though as the pattern does get better by the end of the week. I want to show you how the jet stream will evolve.

Right now we have high pressure building along the northwest coast. This is causing an area of low pressure to come into the Rockies and high plains.

We are looking at a forecast for Tuesday that is showing the cold air getting pumped in behind the low swinging through the region. That is why is going to be a cold and blustery start of the week.

here’s some good news. This is the jet stream for Friday night into the weekend. Notice we have a little mountain, a ridge of high pressure which will develop over the intermountain west as we get into Friday, Saturday, and early Sunday.

At the end of the week and probably most of the weekend, we will have another break in the weather. Not unlike what happened late this past weekend where we had a bit of a mild stretch. Didn’t have much wind and the weather looked good.

However, off the Pacific Northwest coast, there is another troff poised to come in. As we look ahead into Monday, March 2, that same low digs down into the four corners area.

Here we go. Early next week — Monday and Tuesday — we could be looking at an area of low pressure over the four corners area and the intermountain west just in time for the start of March. Really right on schedule.

As you get into March, as we well know, the weather gets more active. Here’s another system. Doesn’t look like much right now. But this is going to be another low that is going to come in and swing behind it three days later.

So March is going to start off busy. Bundle up. Get ready for a cold blustery start of the week with a little bit of snow. Good weather at the end of the week and the weekend. Then another storm early next week.

Thanks for watching the Day Weather Podcast.

Wyoming Weatherman Don Day’s Forecast for February 14

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The following is a rushed transcription of Don Day’s weather forecast for February 14 and the President’s Day weekend.

Good morning. Hello everyone. Happy Valentine’s Day. Thanks for watching the Day Weather podcast.

It’s all about the wind over the next couple days. Today and Saturday. Winds are going to be picking up. Especially true for viewers in Wyoming where I-80 and I-25 will be hit by high winds, blowover risks, blowing and drifting snow and out in the open areas along secondary roads.

It will definitely be a concern.

As we take a look past the next two days, which generally speaking for today and Saturday, other than mountain snow showers, looks fairly dry.

But we do see another weather system that will bring snow back into Wyoming late Saturday but especially into Sunday.

As we get into Sunday and President’s Day Monday, this is the snow forecast. Notice we have snow in all of the mountain ranges and the Rockies. But also we will see the possibility that we will see snow east of the Continental Divide Sunday night but especially Monday into Tuesday.

Also there is going to be snow near the mountains along the western slopes of Wyoming, Colorado, and into the Wasatch front of Utah as well.

As we have seen for most of the several weeks, the mountains have really gotten the bulk of the snow. That will continue.

But since this is a three day weekend, just a heads-up along I-80, I-25, I-90, there will be some wintry weather on Sunday night into Monday.

So if you have a three day weekend, keep that in mind. It’s not a big storm but enough to be a nuisance.

And there is a lot of cold air that’s going to come in and make Sunday night, Monday, and Tuesday quite a bit colder all throughout this region for the first half of next week.

Warmer, windy today and Saturday. Then Sunday and Sunday night, Monday, and Tuesday be ready for some wintry weather again.

We are anticipating late next week a warmup. I think as we get into the following weekend, there could be a thaw. The first half of next week looks pretty cold. Late next week and next weekend a thaw.

But after that, things get interesting again.

This is a very long range outlook. This takes us all the way out to Tuesday, Feb 25. One thing that’s showing up on the modeling is a large low coming into the Four Corners region sometime around Feb 24, 25, 26.

Will this happen? It’s a question mark. But we are seeing signs that this scenario which would be a weather producer is on the table. We talked earlier this week that March could be an active month and it kinda gets started in February. That still looks to be the case.

One thing that I want to show and we pay attention to at Day Weather is sea-surface temperatures. This is a sea surface temperature map of the globe.

Anywhere you see blue, water temperatures are a little cold. Orange and red is a little bit warmer.

These are temperatures relative to what we call averages. Where the cold and warm water is is really important.

Remember how stormy last Spring was. We had that big blizzard last winter in the middle of March. We went into March with one of the busier and stormier Marchs in awhile.

And a lot of that had to do with what the sea surface temperatures were.

This is our current sea surface temperature patterns right now. I want to show you this relative warmth. This is not an El Nino but relative warmth right here north of the equator.

We still have temperatures in the Pacific that are a little bit warmer than average.

This area of colder weather is growing and it could result in La Nina later this year.

But check out the remarkable similarities in the sea surface temperatures in the middle of February to where we were a year ago.

A year ago today, this is what they look like. This is what they look like now.

A year ago, it was a little bit colder in the Indian Ocean. We also have the same coolness developing here.

But this relative area of warmth right here and right here is very similar to where we were a year ago.

So the table is set late February into March that this warmer water temperature — again not very warm but just warm enough — to add more energy and moisture into the west United States in the beginning of March and the end of February.

we’ll keep you up to date on these sea surface temperatures occasionally.

Thanks for watching the Day Weather podcast. Have a great weekend. Talk to you on Monday.

Don Day’s Wyoming Weather Forecast for Wednesday, February 12

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Welcome to Wednesday, February, You’re watching the Day weather podcast.

Let’s take a look at the snowfall forecast. Notice we continue to see — not a lot — but a little of snow coming thru the Rockies and the High Plains. 

There’s a system coming in today and early Thursday that will spread a little bit of light snow. 

You can see while it’s not heavy we are talking about a dusting — one to two inches of snow on the plains east of the Divide. You can see a little bit more snow falling on the mountain ranges as you would expect.

Cold air will continue to funnel in out of Canada. So it’s going to be pretty chill. A little bit of snow, lot a lot of snow but enough to be a nuisance.

It’s still going to make the roads icy across the region. This is especially true across the higher mountain passes of Colorado, I-80, I-25, I-90 across northeastern Wyoming. 

We have slick roads just about everywhere due to recent snow events and the fact that it continues to be cold and it will stay cold.

Temps for another day or two will be pretty chilly. They will warm up a little as we get into Friday and Saturday.

Beyond Saturday, we are going to keep our eye on a developing storm system that could come in Sunday into President’s Day Monday.

This is the basic upper level jet stream by Monday morning. Notice there is a trough coming in right here coming into southwestern Wyoming and northeastern Utah.

this chart we’re showing you is from the European model. It is a bit stronger than the American models but it is something we need to watch.

We’ve seen systems like this right around the President’s Day weekend that sometimes show up and comes thru before heading out to the East. So if you have a three day weekend coming up, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the weather. There could be a little more snow in the forecast.

Taking a look 10 days from now. Notice the jet stream flow kinda of straightens out. Low out here on the west coast that meanders around. More in the way of Pacific air coming in.

We talked about this yesterday. After the 20th or so it doesn’t look as cold. But it does look like a busy weather pattern especially as we get to the end of February and the beginning of March.

There’s a lot of winter weather on the table. Nothing too bad for the next few days. But do be ready for cold and just enough snow to be a nuisance.

For folks who follow the Day weather podcast, one thing we talk about is the sun, cosmic rays, solar activity

We are at a solar minimum right now — the strongest solar minimum in over 100 years. One thing that we keep track of is the amount of cosmic rays hitting the Earth.

Right here is where we are right now with cosmic rays. The space age record goes back to 2009 in the last solar minimum. We are really close to breaking this record.

Cosmic rays have been tracked since 1964. So this solar minimum which broke records in 2019 could break the record for the most amount of cosmic rays hitting the Earth here in early 2020.

Why is this important?  Solar activity has show to make connection with long term climate and weather trends.

Low solar activity has an impact that can make more clouds on the earth and can make it a little bit cooler.

Something we will continue to watch for you as the solar minimum is currently bottoming out right now over the next two or three months. It is interesting to watch.

Thanks for watching the Day Weather podcast, we will talk to you on Thursday.

How Private Weather Companies Work with the National Weather Service

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A mezocyclone lightning storm with dark clouds forming over the plains in Tornado Alley.
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A nighttime, tornadic mezocyclone lightning storm shoots bolt of electricity to the ground and lights up the field and dirt road in Tornado Alley.

By Ike Fredregill

Cowboy State Daily

The federal government provides the nation with free weather data, but most Americans get their day-to-day forecasts from private weather companies.  

“It goes back further than you would think — there’s always been some element of non-governmental weather services,” said Don Day Jr., DayWeather owner and meteorologist. “But, it really didn’t become more commercialized until the ’70s and ’80s.”

Newspapers, radio broadcasts and TV shows wanted specialized weather reports for their regions and graphics to illustrate what the data indicated, Day explained. 

Furthermore, private industries across the nation wanted the data interpreted to fit their needs.

“Quite honestly, the demand out there for specialized weather — the National Weather Service (NWS) wasn’t going to be able to handle everything,” Day said. 

Jonathan Porter, AccuWeather Vice President of Business Services and meteorologist, said private industry stepped up to meet the growing demand.

“This has been a real success story in terms of how companies work with their government,” Porter said. “People talk about public sector-private sector partnerships, and this is a scenario where the partnerships between the government and weather industry cost the American taxpayer nothing at all, because that data is already available, but (the partnership) yields huge benefits.”

By working with NWS to boost severe weather warning broadcasts, he said private weather companies could be helping save lives and reduce the economic impacts of significant weather events. 

Free to pay

To monetize free data, Day said private companies turned to traditional media outlets and special interest groups.

“A lot of private forecasting companies that were successful found a really good niche in TV and radio,” he said. “USA Today was a game changer. In the ’90s, they came out with this huge page with a color weather graphic for the whole country. All the sudden, if you were a daily newspaper in a medium-sized market, you had to have a weather page.”

While free, the data was raw and bulky. Weather companies translated the gobbledegook into localized data, added digestible graphics and used their expertise to interpret forecasts.  

“The federal government provides a very robust and rich set of weather data,” Porter said, adding AccuWeather also collects data from governments around the world. “We create value for our customers — over 1.5 billion a day in 200 different languages — by serving consumers the weather data they need for travel plans and their day-to-day lives. We also serve businesses, who use our specific insights about how weather could impact worker safety and business operations.”

In Wyoming, Accuweather provides weather data to railroad companies.

“Parts of Wyoming are certainly very windy,” Porter said. “We provide very specific warnings to railroad operators in terms of letting them know winds will be over 60 mph on this particular part of their track.”

Established under the U.S. Department of War in 1870, the Weather Service, which operates as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was assigned to the Department of Commerce in 1940, said Jared Allen, a NWS warning coordination meteorologist based in Cheyenne.

“We mainly support our core partners in emergency management,” Allen said, explaining the agency’s primary mission is public safety. “But we do work with local broadcasters and enhance that relationship as much as we can, so they understand how to look at our product, ensuring our message and their message are as similar as possible for the public’s ease of interpretability.”

Working together

The relationship between private and public weather services has not always been sunny, Allen said.

“On occasion there can be challenges,” he explained. “One instance involved some private companies putting out their own weather alerts.”

While providing weather alerts to niche interest groups doesn’t interfere with the NWS mission, Allen said private companies broadcasting weather alerts to the general public can cause confusion, which could result in injury or loss of life.

“Depending on how they brand that alert and whether it correlates with a NWS alert,” he said, “that can unfortunately set a precedent of the public needing multiple sources of information before taking preventive action.”

Another conflict arose when President Donald Trump nominated Barry Lee Myers, a former AccuWeather chief executive, to run NOAA in 2017. Experts predicted that Myers being involved with the family-owned and operated AccuWeather would create a conflict of interest. While under Myers’ leadership, the company supported measures to limit the extent to which federal weather services could release information to the public, potentially allowing private companies to generate their own value-added products using the same information.

Myers’ nomination was stalled until 2019, when Myers withdrew because of health concerns. 

“There certainly has been growing pains about how to work together effectively,” Porter said. “But there’s been a realization over time that we can accomplish a lot more by working together.”

Day said his peers have bumped heads with the federal government on occasion, but he maintains a healthy working relationship with the feds.

“I have no problems with the weather service, and nine out of ten times we don’t compete for customers,” he explained. “But my position as a private weather forecaster is very different from others.”

If the government didn’t readily share its weather data, Day said he would be out of a job.

“There is a heavy reliance on government-provided data, no doubt,” he said. “Without the tax-funded, weather forecasting infrastructure, I’d have nothing.”

For AccuWeather, Porter said many of the past conflicts between private and public weather forecasters arose from lack of clarity.

“Especially in the ’80s and ’90s… there was not a clear understanding as to what the different parts of the weather community should be doing,” he said, explaining public and private forecasters were competing to produce the same information to the same demographics. “After we realized the need for establishing swim lanes — what the academic community would focus on, what private industry would focus on and what the government would not be focused on — that concept has been embraced by the American Meteorological Society.”

Despite some turbulence, Porter said the weather community’s current relationship is healthy and strong.

“There’s a tremendous amount of passion in the weather community to make a positive difference,” he said. “Few other fields have had as much success from a predictive capability as meteorology has had in terms of leveraging the science to improve society.”

Day, Old Farmer’s Almanac agree — it’s going to be a cold winter

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By Cowboy State Daily

The Old Farmer’s Almanac and one of Wyoming’s premier weather forecasters are both predicting the same thing for eastern Wyoming this winter — cold.

The 228-year-old Farmer’s Almanac, which claims an accuracy rate in long-range forecasting of up to 85 percent, is predicting a “polar coaster” in terms of winter temperatures, with the mercury dipping far below average east of the Rockies, from the Continental Divide to the Appalachians. Day agrees.

“Places like Sheridan, Buffalo, Gillette, Lusk, Torrington, they’re probably going to be the coldest parts of Wyoming this winter,” he said. “You get over to Jackson, Rock Springs and Evanston on the other side of the Divide and it’s likely going to be a more mild winter there.”

Day said typically, cold air coming down from Canada is heavy and drops to the lowest point in the landscape, which is the eastern slope of the Rockies.

“Sometimes, in patterns like we’re expecting this winter, the Rockies will keep that really cold air, most of the time, from going over to places like Jackson and Star Valley and Evanston,” he said.

As far as snow, Day said heavier snow than normal can be expected for the first half of the winter, from mid-October through January, particularly in eastern and northeastern Wyoming.

Weather forecasting can be a tricky business. The Old Farmer’s Almanac bases its predictions on a centuries-old secret formula created by its founder. The publication estimates its success rate at 80 percent to 85 percent. The University of Illinois, in a study, set the figure at closer to 52 percent.

Day said he bases his predictions on a combination of computer modeling and looking at past patterns of weather, while the National Weather Services uses only computers and does not look at past trends.

“What we have found is that the formula of mixing those two seems too give you the most accurate weather forecast,” he said. “The Farmer’s Alamanac is coming out at about 52 percent. You know what the (computer) model is at? About the same.”

Day admitted that a little experience in weather forecasting doesn’t hurt, either.

“Weather forecasting is a lot like being a pilot,” he said. “You go and get on an airplane and the captain greets you when you get on board. You like to see a captain with a little what in his hair? A little gray, right? You don’t want a fresh-faced 18-year-old flying a 747, right?

Is long-range weather forecasting more than a tabloid gimmick?

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Long range forecast
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Anyone who’s waited five minutes in a supermarket checkout lane can attest to the rows of weird publications waiting on the sales racks. From half-horse, half-human babies to the latest Hollywood gossip, the periodicals scream, “Read me.” 

In the same vein, hiding among the intimacy tips and health crazes, are the farmers’ almanacs. Pocket-sized, printed in black and white and typically with a hole punched in the corner, presumably to facilitate dangling the book from a peg board between the rusty sickle and chipped screwdrivers, these magazines are packed with astronomy charts, gardening advice, and most notably, long-range weather forecasts.

The most well known of these are probably the Farmers’ Almanac and Old Farmers Almanac, but there are others. The random facts are fun, and it’s a valuable tool for those wondering the position of the stars on a set date, but is the weather accurate?

Dayweather, Inc., Meteorologist Don Day Jr. said at times, the almanacs are more accurate than computer-generated predictions.     

“I think, some years, they outperform some of the long-range computer models,” Day said. “But the tricky thing is they say they have a secret formula, so not knowing what they use to predict things makes it hard to create a fair comparison.”

Down the divide

The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2020 calls for a colder winter than average in eastern Wyoming, while the west side of the state could experience a milder winter.On the other hand, the National Weather Service Climate Forecast System (CFS) is calling for above-average temperatures across the country and into Alaska.

“When Alaska is colder than normal, the lower 48 are warmer than normal, which always trips people up,” Day explained. “So, this (CFS) model contradicts itself.”

Meteorologists take three approaches to long-range forecasting: Using historical data to create an analog forecast, relying on the CFS modeling to generate predictions or mixing the two sources together.

“What I think the (Old) Farmers Almanac does is all analog,” Day said. “Personally, I use a mix of both. I’ve been burned in previous years by relying solely on analog or computer modeling, so I don’t trust one more than the other.”

Another problem with the current CFS forecast is the Continental Divide, which splits Wyoming in two. Whereas the almanacs provide weather predictions based on regions — Wyoming is located in both the High Plains region and Intermountain region — a CFS model produced earlier this week colors the entire nation in hues of red, yellow and orange, indicating warmer than average temperatures regardless of geography.

“It’s really hard to paint a broad brush for Wyoming,” Day said. “The Continental Divide does tend to guide where the air goes.”

Low-to-the-ground arctic blasts don’t always cross over the mountains, which he explained creates different winter conditions for people living on either side of the divide.

While the Old Farmers Almanac predictions for this year are in line with Day’s, he said almanac forecasts tend to derail when they try to pinpoint the time and location of a weather event.

“One of the challenges is how precise (the almanacs) try to get,” Day said. “You’ll read something about a blizzard near Kansas City, Kansas, between Jan. 27 and Feb. 17, but in my opinion, it’s a wild-ass guess.”

Down by the sea

Using sea-surface temperatures, Day said meteorologists are learning more about how to compare prior years with similar oceanic data and weather patterns to current conditions.

“A lot of weather forecasting is pattern recognition,” he explained. “Being able to recognize past patterns and what caused them has made better forecasting for the future.”

The almanacs also track ocean activity in a section most likely overlooked by many Wyomingites, the tide table.

But, Day said the publications keep their prediction practices under wraps, so it’s not possible to speculate whether their sources are using a similar process.

Accurate or not, the almanacs inspire thoughtful weather conversations. 

“The … almanac is fun — it gets people talking,” Day said. “And it heightens their sense of thinking forward.”

As long-range weather forecasting improves, it could become a valuable tool for private businesses across the world.

“I think we’re getting to the point where people in business can really use this data,” Day said. “A snowblower company could stock more snowblowers in regions expecting colder winters. There’s a lot of money to be made or lost as long-range forecasting gets more accurate.”

Meteorology is a ways off from providing consistent, spot-on, 180-day forecasts, but between analog forecasts, computer modeling and sources like farmers’ almanacs, Day said he looks forward to seeing what future holds.

40 Years Later: Tornado Rips Through Cheyenne, Wyoming

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On July 16, 1979, Cheyenne was hit by the largest tornado (F3) to ever hit the state of Wyoming.

The tornado was responsible for one death, dozens of injuries, and damage to hundreds of homes. 

Don Erickson was Cheyenne’s mayor and he recalls what happened that day 40 years later.

Five Questions With… Meteorologist Don Day

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Wyoming meteorologist Don Day accurately predicted our cold, snowy spring and late-starting summer. Is this the first time a meteorologist got everything right? Can he do it again for the next 90 days? Is he a modern-day Nostradamus? If so, let’s bet on the Super Bowl while the odds are good.

Introducing “Five Minutes With” — where we ask five random questions to our favorite Wyomingites. By the way, his prediction for our summer weather is fantastic (no comment on his Super Bowl pick).

You can check out Don’s DayWeather podcast every weekday at 7AM.

Statewide moisture outlook positive, wildfire outlook is average to below average

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Statewide moisture outlook positive, wildfire outlook is average to below average
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Ample spring precipitation statewide is helping southeast Wyoming bounce back after a dry year in 2018, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hydrologist said.

“We’re a little above normal for precipitation across the state,” NOAA Hydrologist Jim Fahey said. “The Laramie Range, the Snowies and the Sierra Madres are all looking a lot better this year than previous years.”

Wyoming’s precipitation in April was 115 percent to 120 percent above average, and mountain snowpack across the state is close to 100 percent of median, according to NOAA’s water supply outlook for May 2019.

“The snow level is lowering, but there probably won’t be much runoff next week,” Fahey said Friday, May 17. “With cooler temperatures in the forecast, it may even accumulate a little bit.”

Although most of the state has above average precipitation rates, north central Wyoming around the Tongue and Powder River basins only received about 80 percent of average precipitation, the outlook states.

“Concern areas for too little precipitation would be the northern part of Powder River and the Tongue River, but they have some time catch up a little bit,” Fahey explained. “Right now, we don’t really have any concern areas for too much precipitation.”

The state’s reservoirs reached about 80 percent of capacity by early May, which Fahey said is a marked improvement from years past.

“The storages for early May are above average,” he said. “That’s a good thing. During the drought years, our reservoirs’ capacities were down to 40 percent.”

Fire outlook

Increased precipitation statewide could mean reduced fire activity this summer, but U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Aaron Voos said too much precipitation could also be problematic.

“There is a danger associated with good moisture years,” Voos explained. “In years of good precipitation, you’ve got more moisture in your fuels, but you also have more fine fuels, like grass.”

If the fine fuels dry out later in the season, they can carry a wildfire over a wider area than heavy fuels such as trees, he said.

Despite the dangers associated with higher precipitation years, Voos said data from the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center indicated Wyoming could experience average or below average fire season.

“I have to point out, we received a similar outlook around this time last year,” he added. “Then we had the Badger Creek Fire, Ryan Fire and Silver Creek Fire, which all burned more than 20,000 acres each.”

Both the Badger Creek Fire and Ryan Fire affected large portions of Southeast Wyoming, primarily in the Snowy Mountains, while the Silver Creek Fire blazed across the Routt National Forest in Colorado.

Fahey said NOAA was also monitoring the possibility of drier conditions in late May and early June.

“Hopefully, we don’t get a warm up then a rainfall in early June,” he said. “That’s a worst-case scenario for us, because that’s usually where we can get our worst cases of flash flooding. But, the long range forecast for May continues to look wet with below average temperatures, so we’re looking good.”

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.”

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

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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.

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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