Storm closes government offices, schools for a second day

Wednesday's blizzard wasn't enough to deter Sarah Dahlberg and Rob Hamlin from a bike ride down Garfield Street on Wednesday afternoon in Laramie. While snowfall had tapered off in many areas by Thursday, continued brisk winds convinced officials in many communities to keep schools and government offices closed for a second day. (Photo by Daniel Bendtsen, Laramie Boomerang)

State and local government offices, schools and businesses across southern and eastern Wyoming remained closed Thursday as residents worked to dig out from the biggest winter storm seen in at least a decade.

With blizzard warnings still in effect through Thursday evening, the state’s highways remained closed Thursday morning and the Wyoming Department of Transportation offered no estimates as to when they might be opened.

While the heavy snow the fell through Wednesday had tapered off by Thursday, brisk winds gusting into the 30s continued to create blowing snow, making work to clear roads difficult.

Given continuing blizzard conditions, Gov. Mark Gordon announced the closure of state offices in Cheyenne on Wednesday would continue for another day.

“We need people to stay safely home until this storm subsides so snow plow crews can clear streets and parking lots unhindered,” he said.

The storm stretched from Denver to the Dakotas, making it the largest seen in almost 40 years. Winds gusting to more than 60 mph created blizzard conditions unlike any seen in at least a decade. 

“I’ve been told that we have not seen a storm of this nature since the Thanksgiving blizzard of 1979 and the 2003 storm,” Gordon said. “Reportedly, it has the same intensity as a Category 1 hurricane.”

Schools and government offices across the region were closed Wednesday as the storm made travel difficult. With winds continuing Thursday, officials in many of those communities, including Cheyenne, Laramie, Gillette and Lusk, decided to keep schools closed for another day.

In addition to state offices, city and county government offices in Cheyenne were closed Thursday, as were offices in Torrington, Gillette and Lusk.

Fourteen inches of snow fell in Cheyenne during the storm, prompting the Cheyenne Police Department to set the scale it uses to measure road slickness at "slick as non-caloric silicon-based kitchen lubricant." The department urged people to stay off of the roads, saying its officers had responded to reports of 20 stranded vehicles by Wednesday night.

Travel throughout southern and eastern Wyoming was almost impossible, with every major highway from Cheyenne west to Rock Springs and north to Casper and Newcastle closed by the storm. Weather forecasts called for the storm to subside by Thursday evening and temperatures to rise well above freezing by the weekend.

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