Winter photo

Jennifer Stone, an attorney at Schilling and Winn, P.C., in Laramie, shovels the sidewalk outside of her office on Thursday after the week’s blizzard brought several inches of snow and wind.

Laramie resident Michael Armstrong said he wasn’t expecting so many replies to his post on a Laramie community Facebook page offering free assistance to stuck vehicles, but he and a friend ended up helping over 18 people get vehicles out of the snow Wednesday and Thursday.

Armstrong was one of many in the community to help those in need during this week’s winter storm. Whether it was shoveling sidewalks or assisting vehicles stuck in drifts, neighbors helped neighbors as the city and Wyoming Department of Transportation crews worked to get the roads clear of snow drifts after Wednesday’s blizzard conditions, which caused local governments, schools, the University of Wyoming and most roads to close.

Armstrong said he was inspired to help after he and his girlfriend saw posts on social media where people offered to help others out of the snow — for a price. Both long-time avid off-roaders, he said his girlfriend pointed out getting help shouldn’t come with a price tag.

“All we do every weekend we can is go out and off-road,” Armstrong said. “On the trail, trail etiquette is if someone is stuck, you stop and help them no matter what — and, of course, you don’t charge them.”

Taking the trail etiquette to the streets, Armstrong made a post Wednesday offering free assistance for stuck vehicles on the Laramie Classifieds Facebook group, which features posts about general community events and items for sale. He said he wasn’t expecting his post to get over 700 reactions and almost 100 comments.

Armstrong got plenty of requests for help, so he said got in his SUV, called up a friend with a truck, and got to work. He said he was impressed by how “super friendly” everyone was, and he even met a new off-roading friend who helped them as they freed vehicles stuck the snow.

“It was a lot of fun,” Armstrong said. “We used tow straps, we shoveled some people out, pushed them out, all of that. Everyone said thank you, and it was nice meeting everybody.”

Another Laramie resident, Ava O’Hollearn, said she witnessed her neighbors helping each other as well, whether it was getting cars unstuck or shoveling sidewalks.

One neighbor in particular, she said, has always plowed the sidewalks for her whole east Laramie neighborhood without ever being asked, even during Wednesday’s blizzard.

“I don’t even know him, I’ve never met him, and he takes it upon himself to do that for everyone, which is extremely kind,” O’Hollearn said. “He was out there for hours [Wednesday] doing everybody’s sidewalk.”

She said she saw another neighbor stop and help a vehicle stuck in the snow.

“Nobody asked for help,” O’Hollearn said. “These neighbors just took it upon themselves to help others in need.”

Transcending past her neighborhood, she added helping others is just “the Wyoming way.”

“There’s an elderly lady that I know who had an aneurysm, and I check on her periodically,” O’Hollearn said. “She said her neighbors came over and shoveled her walks for her. … People in Wyoming tend to just do and not be asked.”

The storm hit southeast Wyoming hard, causing closures all over the region.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation closed Interstate 80 to all traffic from Rock Springs to Cheyenne both eastbound and westbound Wednesday, with some sections of westbound lanes from Cheyenne to Laramie opening late Thursday afternoon with conditions described as “wet, slick in spots with blowing snow.”

WYDOT alerts indicated I-80 eastbound across Southeast Wyoming was expected to be closed overnight Thursday.

U.S. Highway 287 also remained closed in the Laramie area overnight Wednesday, opening late Thursday afternoon with similar slick, snowy conditions.

Matthew Murphy, public relations specialist with WYDOT, said Thursday afternoon the department was evaluating potential overnight closure of other roads on a “case by case basis.”

“Once crews can get road surfaces clear and visibility improves, highways will begin to reopen across southeast Wyoming,” the release said.

Within city limits, city crews were working in shifts to keep trucks out around the clock to try to clear the roads, Streets Division Manager Shane Johnson told the Boomerang Thursday. He added they planned to continue until “it’s not needed anymore,” which has proven to be a “big effort” by city staff.

“Mainly because of the wind that was accompanying the snow, it caused severe drifting everywhere in town, so it’s been a lot tougher to deal with,” Johnson said.

The Streets Division was one of few departments open Thursday as city offices — including Municipal Court and the Laramie Community Recreation Center — were closed. The other services open were the Laramie Police and Fire Departments.

City trash and recycling collections are expected to resume today, interim Public Works director Brooks Webb said in an email Wednesday, and any missed collections during the closure “should be collected by the end of the day on Saturday.”

Many students were excited to have a snow day after a University of Wyoming news release sent late Wednesday night said UW was to be closed all day Thursday, canceling all “classes, labs and activities.” The closure included buses, the Wyoming Union, Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center and the Early Childhood Education Center.

While UW had an early closure due to weather a few years ago, director of institutional communications Chad Baldwin said a full-day weather closure hasn’t happened at UW for “at least a decade.”

The Boomerang plans to update the story as the storm progresses with any additional closures, impacts and alerts online.

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