Updated at 11:00 p.m.
Folks planning on leaving today or Tuesday to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday may want to adjust their schedules as the Laramie Valley braces for heavy snowfall.
National Weather Service predictions show Laramie can expect an upwards of nine inches of snow by Tuesday afternoon, with some areas in the mountains — including the Interstate 80 summit — expecting over a foot of snow.
Bill Mokry, a meteorologist out of the NWS Cheyenne office, said near-blizzard conditions are also likely, especially tonight into Tuesday morning. A low-pressure system is sinking lower than previously expected, he explained, which brings with it some very strong winds.
“Given the fact that we’re dealing with some fairly light fluffy snow that we’re expecting with this, blowing snow is going to be a real big problem,” Mokry said. “Then you couple the wind speeds up to pretty much near that 35-mile per hour threshold that we use for blizzards, it creates those near whiteout conditions.”
If the wind stays at or above 35 mph and visibility stays within a quarter of a mile for three or more hours, the storm will have met NWS blizzard criteria. Mokry said the NWS is keeping an eye on those key factors as it decides whether to upgrade the area to a blizzard watch or warning.
Later this afternoon, the NWS issued a blizzard warning for the Laramie Range, including the I-80 summit.
The blowing snow, drifts and accumulation all have a high likelihood of affecting travel; conditions on the I-80 summit were already deteriorating this afternoon with accumulating snow, per Wyoming Department of Transportation webcams available at www.wyoroad.info.
“As these heavier bands continue to form and move across the area, we should see more accumulation that will start to stick to the roadways,” Mokry said.
Additionally, he noted there may be “some drifting in those more drift-prone areas,” that when paired with “the reduced visibility as well, will create enough of a headache for folks who are trying to get out.”
Before a single snowflake fell, a University of Wyoming Alert email sent late Sunday night alerted students and faculty classes would be canceled today and Tuesday to give people time to travel ahead of the storm.
As of Monday afternoon, the campus remained open despite the cancellation of classes.
Laramie County Community College is closing all campuses and outreach centers at 5 p.m. today and will remain closed Tuesday.
Alabny County School District No. 1, including schools and district offices, will also be closed Tuesday due to weather, according to an email from superintendent Jubal Yennie late Monday evening.
The City of Laramie announced it will be closed Tuesday as well, including the landfill and solid waste pickup routes, according to a late Monday news release.
Faculty and staff at the Laramie Community Recreation Center and the Laramie Ice and Events Center will determine whether or not they should open late come Tuesday morning.
As folks decide how to get to their Thanksgiving plans, Mokry said one big thing residents can do during the next 36 hours of heavier snowfall is to “try to not be on the roadways” at all.
“Give the plows the space they need, give crews the timing they need to get back to a safe riding condition,” he added. “If folks can delay their travel plans a little bit for the Thanksgiving holiday until Wednesday, things should be better across our area.”