For a moment there, it seemed like it wouldn’t come. For anyone awake around 2 a.m. on Wednesday, it was apparent the snow forecasted for 10 p.m. Tuesday had yet to fall. When folks woke up on Wednesday, many begrudgingly dragged themselves in to work saying, “Well, this isn’t as bad as forecasters said it would be.” But anyone feeling smug while criticizing decisions to close Albany County schools and the like Wednesday morning soon was proven wrong as a uniquely intense winter storm grew worse and worse throughout the day.
The snow fell and twisted with the wind that cut through coats and layers of clothing. It piled up on streets and walkways, making it difficult to navigate even short distances. Interstate 80 and highways in and out of Laramie were closed early as it was clear those who would try to traverse the dangerous roadways would be putting themselves and others in danger.
On Thursday, while the snow stopped falling, the wind continued blowing, making it dangerous still for some to make their way to the city for school, work or errands. Besides, most of us needed some time to try to dig out our driveways, sidewalks and more. It was the right thing for our local institutions and many local businesses to take another day off.
Overall, we feel our local officials and community members handled the situation the best they could. Are there areas our institutions and neighbors could improve on? Sure. But it doesn’t seem like any people or property were seriously hurt, and that’s a testament to how Wyoming folks are able to cope with dangerous situations.
It was most impressive to see something that’s been a part of Albany County since its inception: people helping one another out. We will always applaud our public safety officials who put themselves in harms way to help those in peril, including with this week’s storm. As we saw with a Colorado highway trooper tragically killed during the storm while assisting a motorist, these men and women put their lives on the line.
But during the week’s storm, we were equally impressed by common civilians who would stop when they saw someone in need or responded via social media. There were people who reached out by social media to ask for help and received it, and those who valiantly put the word out they wanted to help. (One party profiled in the Boomerang received dozens of calls in a short period of time.)
As usual, neighbors with ATV plows, snowblowers or other equipment (like a shovel and a strong back) pitched in to help each other dig out. Many good neighbors plowed sidewalks throughout their neighborhoods. That was important because this deep and heavy snow drifted to the point that some folks couldn’t possibly have cleared their walks and driveways by hand. It was a common sight even into the weekend to see people clearing property that extended beyond their own homes and businesses, and that’s fantastic.
It was difficult for many for the interstates and highways to close for such long periods of time. (Not to mention that it made local newspaper subscribers wait an extra day or two for their Boomerangs.) The Wyoming Department of Transportation, however, made the best decisions they could with the information they had, likely saving lives. We all remember some of the tragic pile ups we’ve seen on Interstate 80 in recent years where lives were lost. No matter how inconvenient having travel plans disrupted might be, nothing is worth the loss of life.
By and large, the city plowing crews seemed to be on top of things early. Even in the midst of the storm, they were keeping at least the major city streets relatively clear. The trouble spots for most motorists as usual were the intersections where snow was deep and those with lower vehicles found themselves high-centered if they slowed up to make turns. Many drivers with less experience with these road conditions slowed up when it was really necessary to keep their momentum to get through those intersections. Since those intersections are always a problem in heavy snows, maybe the city crews could establish some different priorities to address that problem whether with some special crews or by adopting a different technique to move more of that loose snow out of intersections.
And look, there are always reasons to moan when it comes to plowing. When the city starts clearing side streets, berms bury cars, leaving many clearing their vehicles just to make it to work, the store or wherever else on Friday. There are a lot of factors that lead to how plowing turns out in Laramie and there are always ways to improve. Residents looking to make positive changes should bring their ideas to government rather than leaving suggestions as grumblings at the coffee shop.
Winter storms that close down most activity in the city will always be a part of living in Laramie and Albany County. The best thing we can do is learn from past storms, heed the advice of public safety officials when possible and have a giving spirit for our neighbors in need. It wasn’t that bad of a two-day stretch for those who picked up supplies early, hunkered down and enjoyed the company of loved ones and/or leisure. For those who put on their snow gear and helped out friends and strangers, it was a rewarding day. In any case, we think it all went pretty well considering, and those who helped make it so deserve some thanks.