If it seems like Interstate 80 in Wyoming has been closed more than usual this winter, that’s because it has.
According to data from the Wyoming Department of Transportation, I-80 has been closed 54 out of last 152 days, and the season — which runs from October to May — is far from over.
“This year has been so hard on everybody,” said Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Tim Romig. “I can’t believe how many times the interstate has closed down … it seems like we’re on the gates every week.”
With another winter storm expected to impact travel in southeast Wyoming tomorrow and Monday, and more storms likely this spring, WYDOT spokesman Doug McGee says the 2019-2020 season could be one for the record books.
“The 2018-2019 season saw 47 closures; the 2017-2018 season only 34; the 2016-2017 season 52; and the 2015-2016 season 54,” said McGee. “So we’re on track to exceed that.”
McGee says the most problematic section of I-80 has been the 81-mile stretch across Carbon County.
“The section with the longest closure time by hours is Walcott to Elk Mountain, and it’s a close one between that one and Walcott to Rawlins,” he said. “They’re both in the 338 hours this season.”
McGee says this year has been unique in the fact that the wind directions have changed in a lot of areas, and the state isn’t seeing the freeze-thaw pattern it typically sees.
“There’s not a thick crust forming out on the prairie,” said McGee. “The wind is picking up all that powdery snow and we’re having all these visibility issues.”
“It’s compounded by the fact that our snow fences are built to trap and stop snow from historical wind directions,” he added. “So our snow fences are not as effective, and that’s a big challenge for us this year.”