Historic snowstorm brings Wyoming to standstill

Michael Cummo, Wyoming Tribune Eagle photo A person trudges across Ridge Road on Sunday, March 14, in east Cheyenne. According to the National Weather Service, Cheyenne had received 25.8 inches of cumulative snowfall as of noon Sunday, which breaks the previous two-day record of 25.2 inches from 1979.

WYOMING – Southeastern Wyoming was at a standstill Monday in the aftermath of a record-breaking storm that left 30 inches of snow on Cheyenne.

State and local government offices, schools and even the Legislature were closed Monday, March 15, as the Wyoming Department of Transportation worked to reopen the state to traffic.

Highways from the Nebraska border west to Rock Springs and from the Colorado border north to Buffalo remained closed Monday morning as the Wyoming Department of Transportation worked to clear roads of the drifts created by the previous day’s heavy snow and winds.

In the face of impassable roads, Gov. Mark Gordon announced March 14 that all state government operations in Cheyenne, including the Legislature, would be closed Monday.

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

The storm first reached the state Saturday, March 13, and continued through most of Sunday.

By Sunday afternoon, much of southeastern Wyoming was covered in snow, ranging from 9 inches in Rawlins to 20 inches in Pine Bluffs, 28 inches in Wheatland, 26 inches in Casper and 30.8 inches in Cheyenne, a record for a two-day snowfall.

Police in both Cheyenne and Casper on Sunday urged residents to “shelter in place” and not to travel on the snow-choked streets, according to reports from the Casper Star-Tribune and Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

In Wheatland, the Platte County Record-Times reported Platte County’s Emergency Management agency issued a “code red” alert for its residents, urging them to stay inside.

“It is urgent that everyone stay off the roads,” the message said. “All potential resources are overwhelmed. If you get on the roads, you put yourself and others in danger. You will most definitely get stuck.”

The Wyoming Highway Patrol reported that despite the highway closures, its officers were responding to reports of stranded motorists Sunday afternoon.

The blizzard left thousands without power for periods of time Sunday, with outages reported in Cheyenne, Casper and Torrington.

Schools and government offices were closed in Cheyenne and Laramie, where the University of Wyoming was also closed. Offices were also closed in Wheatland, Douglas and Casper.