(Cheyenne, WY) – As a major winter storm brings major travel impacts to the state, the Wyoming Department of Transportation wants to issue some reminders to residents and travelers.
Strong winds and snow are causing closures in every WYDOT district. Before the snow started to fall, wind wreaked havoc on the highways, causing closures and delays through the recent holiday weekend.
WYDOT urges motorists to obey road closures and not drive past road closure gates. Closures indicate the road is impassable at some point, whether it be from large drifts, ground-blizzards or a crash.
“WYDOT has seen a major increase in gate runners this season,” said Tom DeHoff, assistant chief engineer for operations at WYDOT. “Motorists illegally passing gates delays WYDOT from reopening the road; crews have to shift to addressing stuck and stranded drivers and the drifts their vehicles caused while they were stuck.”
As announced in November, WYDOT has been experiencing personnel shortages, including shortages of snowplow operators and Wyoming Highway Patrol Troopers. In previous storms, WYDOT and the WHP have moved forces from areas less impacted by a storm to areas with heavier impacts to help those crews.
However, since this storm is impacting the entire state, it is possible that levels of service, especially on lower-level roads, will be reduced during this storm. To see the hours of service on Wyoming highways, check out our Snowplow Priority Plan.
If it feels like this winter has been harsher than the last few years, you aren’t alone. WYDOT crews have been working long hours, weekends and holidays to fight the harsh weather and near-hurricane-force winds.
Winds have been causing stretches of multiple-foot-deep snow drifts on highways like US Highway 287 north of Rawlins and even portions of Interstate 25 and Interstate 80. The drifts are leading to prolonged closures as crews have to use rotary plows and other heavy equipment to move the deep snow. Rotary plows are typically used to open seasonal closures, like Wyoming Highway 130 through the Snowy Range.
“Plowing through large drifts isn’t as easy as just driving a plow through,” DeHoff said. “The drift condenses and acts almost like concrete, so it requires large, slow-moving, heavy-duty equipment to even make a dent.”
For those who do have to try to travel, please give WYDOT plows plenty of room to work. Use caution if passing; the road behind an active plow is the safest.
Know before you go, motorists should check road conditions before traveling at www.wyoroad.info or on the Wyoming 511 app. Motorists can also sign up for helpful programs like 511 Notify, which sends users text or email updates about road conditions, or the Wyoming Travel Authorization Program, which authorizes users to travel on sections of closed highways when it is deemed safe enough to do so.
While the 511 options are helpful, WYDOT reminds motorists that tools like web cameras do not always show the whole story. Impacts can be severe off-camera while on-camera looks fine. Please trust the road closures are in place for a reason.
The 511 tools are WYDOT’s only source for road condition information. Other sites or GPS navigation software do not always have accurate information and may take travelers on alternative routes that are impassable or unmaintained in the winter.