Winter in Wyoming has arrived with a blustery bang, but it’s far from over – weather forecasters say there’s more snow coming the rest of this week.
The recent snowstorm started Sunday evening. Sunday saw a bluebird day – it felt more like spring outside rather than being smack dab in the middle of winter. Then in a surprising twist, the temperature went from a high of 57 degrees to a low of 25 – the extreme drop in temps taking place over the matter of just a few hours.
Monday’s snowstorm hit hard. Initially businesses in Douglas remained open, but by 7 a.m., Glenrock businesses were posting closure after closure on social media, in addition to Glenrock’s public schools being closed for the day. Douglas’ rural schools were closed, but public schools were open until around 1:30 p.m. before sending students home early.
Many businesses closed early in Douglas, as the snow continued to fly and wind gusts kicked up to 35 mph, creating hazardous driving conditions and forcing the closures of area roads including I-25 for nearly 24 hours.
Reports from the National Weather Service said Douglas officially received snow accumulation of 5 inches Sunday night through Tuesday morning – a figure most here would dispute. Measurements around Douglas place the total snowfall closer to a foot.
Despite the weather, the Broken Wheel Truckstop’s doors were open and welcoming to anyone who needed a warm, dry place to get out of the weather. Broken Wheel’s assistant manager and chef Glen Stringer said it was business as usual for the popular eatery.
“Storms increase business significantly. The morning was a little quiet but it picked up and we’ve been having a pretty average day selling lots of burgers and patty melts,” he said.
The Broken Wheel is a favorite restaurant among truckers and locals alike. Stringer said they’re also the safest bet if “you find yourself trapped between Gillette and Casper. We have a few extra trucks hanging out today. The road’s been flashing closed and open, and closed again off and on all day,” he said.
A few extra trucks accounted for at least 40 rigs bedded down in the restaurant’s parking lot.
Truck drivers Devin Reider and Kyle Phillips sat in a booth inside, passing time on their phones, checking the weather and keeping each other company.
Reider is originally from Pennsylvania, he said, but he’s been working in Wyoming for awhile. He’d driven 18-wheelers for 12 years and didn’t mind being stuck in Douglas. He likes most of the people here.
“We have people offering us to come over to their houses, take showers and do our laundry. The truckstop lets us hang out here. They don’t seem to mind. People are nice here,” Reider said.
He and Phillips wore ball caps and T-shirts inside the restaurant, contrary to the inclement weather outside. They slouched in their bench seat, either relaxed or resigned to their fate.
Around 5 p.m. Sunday, the drivers made a run from Douglas to outside of Bill via WYO 59. Their load was dropped about another 13 miles off of 59, then they turned around to head back to Douglas around 9 p.m.
That’s when the trouble started, they said.
“As we pulled off of the side road onto 59, we started sliding sideways,” Reider recounted, using his hands to show a sideways slide going the wrong direction onto the ice-glazed road.
“We didn’t know if we would be able to stay on the road or if we were going into the ditch. We made it. The road was icy. All ice. We decided we’d head back to Douglas. We crept about 40-45 mph the entire way back. We didn’t care if it took awhile longer, we were more concerned about being careful. Then a strange thing happened. A few miles outside of Douglas, maybe four miles, the road was dry all the way into town,” he said, glancing down at his phone in hope of a text update from the company.
Reider said about 1 a.m. Monday the weather “really began dumping. That’s when the snow was really coming down.”
The roads around Douglas were closed the majority of the day, and they couldn’t do anything but wait.
“We’re in no hurry. We could work tonight, but we’re going to wait,” Reider commented Monday.
In addition to the snow, winds gusted up to 35 mph Monday. It made for hazardous blizzard conditions and dangerous driving, according to the NWS who encouraged people to stay off of Wyoming’s roads.
Converse County roads were snow-packed Monday and Tuesday morning, and I-25 was closed more often than it was open between Douglas and Buffalo. Parts of it reopened about 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Conditions worsened throughout Monday and most roads and highways across Wyoming were either closed or expected to close during the blizzard.
While snowstorms aren’t unusual in Wyoming this time of year, what made this one stand out is how it affected nearly the entire state.
City and county plows, graders and dump trucks were on the roads, diligently working to keep up with the abundant snowfall. On Monday morning some plows were returning to Douglas and Glenrock shops because of blowing snow and poor visibility, but they were eventually sent out again to battle the blizzard.
Mother Nature isn’t done with Wyoming yet.
Cheyenne National Weather Service Meteorologist Rob Cox cautioned people to be prepared for another snowstorm coming up Wednesday night into Thursday, followed by more snow on Friday.
“At this point in time it looks like one of those systems that’s coming in waves in a northwestern pattern. Those patterns remain active – we get disturbance after disturbance – one after another. That’s what we expect to see Wednesday, Thursday and then coming in on Friday. We have several more days of snow ahead of us,” he predicted.
These location-based bands across Wyoming will bring additional snowfall, anywhere up to 7 inches he said.
“Within the bands, (it) will produce a lot of snow. Right now we want to let people know to keep an eye on the weather reports, keep updated on the forecast and make plans accordingly. We’re on Facebook and Twitter and keep those updated 3-4 times a day. Those are good places to keep abreast of the amount of wind, snow, where the highest impacts are going to be,” he said.