A winter storm that began Monday evening in southeast Wyoming left thousands of Laramie residents without power Tuesday and all roadways to Cheyenne and Colorado closed through the morning.
Just less than 10,000 Laramie customers were without power, according to Rocky Mountain Power’s estimate around 8 a.m. Tuesday. Crews started work early to restore power, but spokesman Dave Eskelsen told the Boomerang most could expect to be without power for an extended period of time Tuesday.
“I’m sure it will be all day,” Eskelsen said. “We are working to get customers back on, but that’s going to come in phases. People need to be prepared to be without power all day (Tuesday), and maybe longer.”
Just more than 1,500 customers were still without power as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The National Weather Service reported that as much as six inches of snow “across the southern Laramie Range and even across portions of the Laramie Valley.”
The heavy, wet snowfall caused tree branches to fall throughout Laramie, with large accumulations on multiple city roadways and in residents’ yards. Eskelsen said the trees interfered with power lines, as did the snow and rain accumulating on lines themselves.
The city of Laramie has crews out working on cleaning up the fallen tree branches and limbs, most of which were relatively small, said Todd Feezer, assistant city manager.
“Right now we don’t see any major trees that have broken,” he said.
Drop-off areas for tree branches and limbs were established at Optimist and Labonte, Feezer said. Another has been established on UW’s campus near the southeast corner of Harney and 22nd streets. It would likely take several days to clean up the mess, Feezer said.
Interstate 80, state and U.S. highways were closed in the morning hours but were open as of noon Tuesday. Conditions on I-80, Wyoming Highway 210 and U.S. Highway 287 all remained windy with slick spots through the day.
Limited visibility and heavy snowfall were the reasons for the closures, Wyoming Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jordan Achs told the Boomerang.
As of Tuesday morning, the snowpack for the Laramie Basin was at 213% of median — the highest percentage in the state. Of the 14 other basins in Wyoming still reporting snowpack data, the second highest was at 141% of median, while the average of all basins was 67%.
Reports saw varied amounts of snowfall in the Laramie area and up toward the summit region, with up to 8 inches in an eastern part of the city reported said Bill Mokry, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Cheyenne office. Late night reports saw around 6 inches at the summit, with 4 inches at Buford and similar amounts near Pumpkin Vine.
Higher temperatures and sunshine is expected today with a high near 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures should continue to creep back up near 80 into the weekend, with a chance of thunderstorms Saturday and Sunday.
Mokry said the NWS tends to see the last significant snowfall events with actual accumulations on the ground in years past around May. He pointed, however, to a storm on June 8, 1974, that saw around 6 inches recorded in the area.
“It shows it’s a bit of a rarity, but it does make them a little more out of the ordinary for this time of year,” he said. “We need that colder air to come back in with moisture so you can transition into snow. This just happened to be a good set up for it to happen.”