Wednesday’s snowstorm was bad news for most people hoping to get around Casper, as about a foot of accumulation hindered transportation in and around the city and shut down businesses and schools.
On the bright side, Chris Jones said, at least it’s still mid-March.
“It’s a good, wet, spring snowstorm,” said Jones, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Riverton. “The impacts while it’s going on are substantial, but the good news is because it’s not the middle of January, traffic and travel will start to improve certainly even (Thursday) probably across the central part of the state and by Friday for sure.”
The storm was brought on by a low pressure system that whipped around moisture and dropped a blizzard on central and eastern Wyoming.
“The low pressure rotates counterclockwise, so it’s wrapping that gulf moisture up and around and producing a lot of heavy, wet snow,” Jones said. “At the same time, it’s a fairly deep low-pressure system, so the winds are also really strong out of the north behind this low pressure area. So we’re seeing the combination of the wind and snow, and it’s causing a lot of travel problems, needless to say.”
Earlier this week, DayWeather meteorologist Mark Heuer predicted that Casper could be in for “a once-in-a-decade-or-two storm.” Wednesday, Jones compared the storm to one over a decade ago: On March 28-30, 2007, about 12 1/2 inches of snow fell on Casper over the course of a day and a half.
However, Jones said late Wednesday morning, it didn’t look like this storm would be reaching “biggest snowstorms of all time” levels.
“But, nonetheless, is it unheard of? I think what’s making this one a little bit more unique is the wind that’s coming with it,” he said. “... We usually see wind with (spring storms), but to start seeing 40 or maybe even 60 mile an hour winds in some parts of Wyoming ... might end up setting it apart from our typical big spring snowstorm.”
However, it appeared like most gusts above 40 mph would be limited to the southeast part of the state, Jones said.
“Some of the speeds we’ve seen (in central Wyoming), while not pleasant and certainly making travel very difficult, may be not as as strong as what we had thought, at least to this point,” Jones said.
One interesting component to spring snowstorms is that they can bring drastically different precipitation levels to nearby places. Riverton, for example, had barely seen snowflakes as of late morning Wednesday, Jones said, while parts of Casper were reportedly 10 inches deep.
“I think the hard thing about these spring storms, when they wrap up like this and they’re so deep, the back edge of where it’s snowing and not snowing can be fairly sharp,” Jones said. “So there are some areas where maybe we’re not seeing as much snow as what it looked like it could be, and then we’re seeing areas like Casper that are doing as expected or maybe a little bit better across the state. So it’s making these really fascinating systems.”
And of course, there’s the fact that with the official start of spring around the corner, a foot of snow on the ground shouldn’t last long.
“We’ll definitely see some melting,” Jones said. “We’ll see a lot more sun on Friday and temperatures will be back up probably in the mid-30s or so.”