Wyoming Department of Transportation crews worked extended hours and shifted additional personnel to needed locations throughout the state to help battle the historic March 13-14, 2019 storm.
WYDOT moved equipment and personnel from District 5, to the southern, central and southeastern areas to help.
The winter storm, sometimes referred to as Ulmer, became a “bomb cyclone” on March 13, which brought fierce blizzard conditions to Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. The storm’s low quickly intensified throughout the day, creating a bombogenesis where the low pressure dropped by 24 millibars in 24 hours or less. It is always sensible to invest in a generator incase you are ever hit by a storm, quiet portable generators are a good option.
As a result, parts of Wyoming had large snowfall amounts, blowing snow, windy conditions and poor visibility. The eastern side of the state had blizzard conditions. Snowfall totals in Wyoming ranged from as little as a half an inch to as much as 18 inches.
WYDOT crews worked extended shifts, slept in their vehicles or at the maintenance shops and continuously worked the roads to keep up with snow removal efforts.
“I am proud of the hard work the men and women of WYDOT have done during this historic storm,” said WYDOT Director Luke Reiner. “Their work during the storm and the preplanning we did helped WYDOT meet its mission of providing a safe, high quality and efficient transportation system.”
Road closures along interstates 80, 25 and 90 and other state highways started on March 13 and continued into March 14. The roads began reopening midday on March 14, with all but three local volume roads reopening by the evening. I-80 had the longest closures due to crews encountering snowdrifts as high as 10 feet.
“We diverted additional crew and equipment to help with snow removal efforts in the areas of the state that were hit the hardest by the storm,” said Mark Gillett, WYDOT assistant chief engineer for Operations. “Although we did have closures, our crews worked hard to get those roads reopened as soon as possible. Having all roads open within a few hours after the end of the storm, except for three secondary highways, was amazing and a testament to the commitment of our maintenance folks. I commend our crews for their work and dedication to the people of Wyoming.”
Southeast and central Wyoming encountered the worst of the storm. In southeast Wyoming, conditions were worse north and east of Cheyenne with blizzard conditions creating poor visibility and large snowdrifts. However, there were also several areas in Albany and Carbon that were bad, too.
When the roads closed, WYDOT crews did a sweep of the closure to ensure there were no stranded motorists. Crews helped motorists stuck in drifts on WYO 130 between Laramie and Centennial. Local authorities helped a motorist on WYO 216 near Albin.
In the Pine Bluffs area, blizzard conditions blew snow into most of the underpasses, blocking roads. The worst was near Egbert but crews had to clear almost all underpasses.
Near Casper, crews encountered high snowdrifts and strong, gusty winds along I-25 and other state roads.
“We had a snowdrift that was 1,000 feet long and 5 feet deep on WYO 387 (near Pine Tree junction) that blocked the entire road on a three-lane super at milepost 127,” said Van Frazier, District 2 area maintenance supervisor. “It took about six hours, five plow trucks and a motor grader to get this drift moved so we could get the road open.”
Crews in the southwestern part of the state were ready to send equipment to southeast Wyoming. However, crews in southeast Wyoming didn’t need the extra equipment because they were able to handle the storm with what they had and what they used from the northwestern part of the state.
Closures along the southwestern part of I-80 were mainly due to local authority requests, which are put in place when a city reaches its capacity and services are no longer available for additional vehicles. Trucks traveling along I-80 filled truck parking facilities to wait out the storm.
In the northeastern part of the state, crews worked continuously to get the roads cleared as fast as possible. Crews pretreated some of the roads with brine and beet juice, prepared additional equipment and shifted other resources within the northeastern part of the state as necessary.
The northwestern part of the state was vital in the snow removal efforts. WYDOT sent a lot of the resources from that area to other parts that were hit the hardest by the storm.
The equipment sent included two lowboys, two tow plows, two motor graders and five snow plows. About 16 crew members from the northwest also went to other parts of the state to help.
At no time, however, was any part of the state without equipment or personnel. The northwestern part of the state received about a half an inch of snow near Riverton and less in other parts.
The public also relied on WYDOT’s 511 website, 511 phone system and the 511 smartphone app to keep them updated about road conditions and closures. WYDOT stats showed the following:
- 511 map had about 9.6 million hits on March 13 and 9.9 million hits on March 14.
- Text pages had about 18.5 million hits on March 13 and 15.2 million on March 14
- WYDOT’s Authorized Travel (WAT) program had 45 calls on March 13 and 9,359 on March 14.
- 511 phone system had 9,359 calls on March 13 and 19,446 on March 14.
- 511 app had 2,249 new downloads for Android devices for a total of 90,740 total downloads and 2,921 new downloads for iOS or Apple devices for a total of 102,616 total downloads.