Wyoming Department of Transportation maintenance crews use a detailed plan to attack winter storms when they occur in the Cowboy State.
Limited resources, including a lack of manpower and limited state funding, require priorities to be made. WYDOT’s Snow Removal Operations 2020-21 Plan is a prioritized list of routes based on traffic counts and school bus routes.
What follows is the level of snow-plowing service as determined by the maintenance manual and snow plan:
— Level 1A roads have 24-hour service … the only Level 1 (A) roads are the interstate highways in Wyoming;
— Level 1B — Crews strive to provide service up to 20 hours a day with minimum service necessary that will allow traffic to move safely at a restricted rate … plowing methods and frequency should be sufficient to keep snow ridges and dangerous drifting to a minimum;
— Level 2 — Crews strive to provide service up to 16 hours a day for traffic observing reasonable winter driving precautions. Plowing methods and frequency should be sufficient to minimize minor snow ridges and dangerous drifting;
— Level 3 — Crews provide minimum service necessary for traffic observing reasonable winter driving precautions and speeds. Plowing methods and frequency should be sufficient to minimize larger snow ridges and dangerous drifting during daylight hours; crews apply abrasives (sand/salt) and chemicals when necessary on hills, curves and hazardous locations; and crews close the road when warranted by visibility limitations or other extreme situations. If necessary, crews allow roads to close because of the weather and reopen as soon as resources are available;
— Level 3B roads — Crews provide minimum service as resources become available; crews apply abrasives and chemicals as necessary on hills, curves and hazardous locations; road conditions shall govern; and the public may travel at their own risk, as conditions allow;
— Level 4 roads — Crews close these roads in the fall as mandated by heavy snow and weather. Crews reopen these roads as soon as practical in the spring.
“Cleanup operations at the end of the storm are to be performed during normal scheduled working hours after all other levels of snow control service have been accomplished,” the Snow Removal Operations 2020-21 Plan states. “This operation shall include the clearing of any snow-blocked approaches, removal of drifted areas off the roadway, and snow piles at intersections and turnarounds, etc.”
“In short, high volume roads are plowed up to 24 hours a day, and usually consist of interstate highways and urban routes, such as Interstate 80 in southern Wyoming,” said WYDOT District 5 Maintenance Engineer Lyle Lamb.
“Medium routes are plowed to keep them passable and reasonably safe, and are a secondary priority to high volume routes. Low volume routes are only serviced after high volume and medium volume roads have been cleared, and are only plowed during daylight hours. Closed refers to seasonally-closed roads, where the cost of keeping them clear outweighs their use.”
“Exceptions to the plan include school bus routes, which are plowed twice a day regardless of their priority,” Lamb said.
The snow removal priority plan is available at www.wyoroad.info.
WYDOT tools help provide a safe, high quality and efficient transportation system
WYDOT employees are on the roads when the conditions are the worst, and they’re out there between storms, too.
WYDOT has numerous bright yellow snow plows, and when working the roads, these plow trucks have amber, red and blue flashing lights mounted on top of the cab and on the back of the sanders. Snow plows are huge machines, capable of moving tons of snow every minute.
“Stay well back from operating snow plows,” said Lamb. “They are spreading sand, anti-icing and de-icing chemicals on the roadway. It’s always a good idea to stay back from snow plows while their operators are doing their jobs.”
With limited visibility, snow plow drivers can’t see vehicles behind them if the vehicles are too close to the plows.
“Remember, the safest driving surface is behind the plow. If you must pass, don’t pass on the right into the plume of snow being moved,” Lamb said. “Be sure on two-lane highways that you have plenty of time to pass. Keep a close watch, as these huge plows often stir up their own whiteout conditions while doing their work.”
Information links may help plan your winter outings
— National Weather Service (Riverton) – https://www.weather.gov/riw/
— WYDOT road conditions – www.wyoroad.info
— WYDOT road conditions – 1-888-WYO-ROAD
— 511 Notify – Dial 511 on your cell phone to obtain road information. This system can also be enabled to deliver road alerts as text messages to your phone or e-mails to your computer or phone on routes that the user identifies. Go to wyoroad.info and choose the 511 notify icon to set-up your account.
In case of emergency, the following number may be contacted for assistance:
— Wyoming Highway Patrol (24 hours per day) – (800) 442-9090
Click here to view the “Levels of Service” PDF for North Central Wyoming.