After three days of 24-hour rotating shifts, Laramie Assistant City Manager Todd Feezer said city snow removal crews will take the weekend off for their safety and to “let mother nature do a little bit of the work.”
Although Friday was a sunny day, cold temperatures and winds kept crews from the city and the Wyoming Department of Transportation busy as they continued clearing out blowing and drifting snow.
The city had been working to clear roadways in Laramie since the blizzard started early Wednesday, Feezer said, focusing on major arterials and heavy-trafficked corridors first, including school zones or major streets like Snowy Range Road and 30th Street.
To make it easier for emergency services to reach people safely, Feezer added city crews have made at least one pass through residential neighborhoods, as well.
Looking to next week, Feezer said crews will start focusing on the less-trafficked parts of town, including emergency routes and bike lanes.
“We’re also going to be maintaining storm sewer outlets, because there’s a chance that some of these can ice over and can cause problems with water trying to vacate certain areas,” Feezer said.
Crews will also start focusing on clearing drifts away from curbside parking downtown.
“At a certain point, once we’ve slowed down with the important traffic plowing, we’ll come back through and we’ll clean out those areas with a back hoe and dump trucks,” Feezer said. “A storm of this magnitude is very difficult to deal with, and to tell you the truth, I’m super proud of what our crews did.”
One way citizens can help with plowing efforts is to try pushing cleared snow off sidewalks and driveways into nearby grassy areas. Feezer said pushing snow into the streets just causes a “double whammy” for street crews.
Despite a few collection trucks getting stuck in the snow, Solid Waste Collection supervisor Victor Lopez said crews should be all caught up with trash and recycling collections by the end of the day Friday.
Lopez added a few pickups in alleyways might have to be handled Monday due to the potential for additional stuck trucks.
“Some alleys were drifted, and the drifts were pretty high, so I told the guys just if they can’t get through there to not even attempt it,” Lopez said. “I know the Street Division is really busy, and they don’t have time to be pulling us out all the time.”
Although Grand Avenue and Third Street are part of state highways, the city handles plowing on both streets, not WYDOT.
The interstate and highways were closed much of Wednesday and Thursday, and WYDOT officially reopened all roads in Laramie, Albany and Carbon counties, excluding regular seasonal closures, as of Friday.
Matt Murphy, public relations specialist with WYDOT, said crews and plows are still out working to ensure the roads stay clear and open.
“There are some areas of blowing snow and some icy patches left over from the storm kind of around the whole region — including I-80 and [U.S. Highway] 287 — so our plows are still out, were still working on those,” Murphy said. “I know we have some rotary plows out around the district blowing drifts back from the road.”
Friday’s sunshine “really helps as well,” Murphy said, but there are still ways travelers can exercise caution as they venture out for the weekend.
“Especially observe the posted speed limits on I-80 where we have the variable speed limits, because those are set for road conditions,” Murphy said. “Even if it looks dry right in front of you, right down the road there could be a patch of blowing snow or some ice.”
Considering a vehicle collided with a snowplow on Wednesday, Murphy added drivers should be careful and give WYDOT crews and snow removal equipment extra space when passing.
“Every time we get a plow hit, it goes offline for a while, and that hurts our ability to keep the roads plowed and open,” Murphy said.