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Spring snowstorm closes highways in Wyoming

By Bob Moen

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, April 9 2013 12:23 p.m. MDT

A spring storm was expected to dump more than one foot of snow in some parts of Wyoming.

Joshua A. Bickel, AP

Enlarge photo»

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A large spring snowstorm brought a second day of winter-like weather to Wyoming on Tuesday, dumping up to a foot of snow, closing hundreds of miles of highways and damaging a marina and other property.

While April snowstorms aren't unusual in Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West, the storm comes after a rather tame winter in many areas.

"We haven't really had bad days like today where everybody is stuck and nobody can go anywhere," Sam Blaney, who was working the service counter at the Petro truck stop in Laramie, said in a telephone interview.

About two dozen truckers and other motorists took refuge at the truck stop to wait out the storm, Blaney said.

The storm began on Monday and winter storm warnings remained in effect Tuesday for a large part of Wyoming, including the cities of Cheyenne, Casper, Rock Springs, Gillette, Riverton, Evanston and Sheridan. All but the northwest part of the state is under some kind of storm advisory.

About 18 inches of snow had fallen by midmorning Tuesday near Lander with higher amounts in nearby mountains, while Riverton and Casper Mountain each received about a foot. Torrington and Pine Bluffs had about 8 inches with more snow expected. Three-foot drifts were reported in some rural areas.

A 100-mile stretch of Interstate 25 between Cheyenne and Douglas was closed Tuesday morning as well as a 125-mile section of I-80 between Laramie and Rawlins and a shorter section in the Evanston area. Many smaller highways in a majority of the state also were closed, slick or had no travel advisories.

"I'm pretty confident that this particular storm is more widespread and has caused more travel problems and closures than any storm we've had this calendar year certainly," Bruce Burrows, spokesman for the Wyoming Department of Transportation, said.

WYDOT began reopening the interstates and some smaller highways by noon, although most roads remained slick with blowing snow.

Blaney said some truckers hit the road as soon as I-80 reopened at Laramie while others chose to stay because they feared the highway would soon close again.

Some schools, especially those in rural areas, canceled classes.

In Sweetwater County, wind gusts up to 71 mph damaged a marina at Flaming Gorge Reservoir and broke windows at the Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs, according to the National Weather Service.

About 1,200 customers in Rock Springs lost power Monday afternoon after winds broke a cross-arm at the top of a power pole.

Cheyenne, Light, Fuel & Power Co. reported some small, scattered outages in the Cheyenne-area Monday night.

Cold temperatures that made it feel more like January or February engulfed the entire state with many areas expecting daytime temperatures in the teens and 20s. The National Weather Service said a record low temperature was set at Douglas in central Wyoming when the temperature dropped to 14 degrees early Tuesday. The previous record was 17 set in 2000.

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