An unseasonably cold storm dumped heavy snow across Wyoming on Monday night and into Tuesday, resulting in widespread power outages and highway closures.
The storm, which hit less than two days after nearly 100-degree temperatures, came so early this year that leaves hadn’t dropped from trees. That, combined with a heavy, wet snow, led to broken branches and downed power lines.
High winds also contributed to the problem, with gusts in Rock Springs reaching as high as 86 mph — equivalent to the speed of a Category 1 hurricane.
The result: roughly 350 power outages affecting about 12,600 Rocky Mountain Power customers in Wyoming, according to the company. That included 1,700 customers in Casper and 6,500 in the Rock Springs/Green River area.
A residential trailer in Mills was completely lost in an overnight fire, Fire Chief Dave North told the Star-Tribune on Tuesday. He said the fire was a “direct result” of a branch falling onto a power line. The fire did not result in any injuries, but North said it did displace the trailers’ residents.
Casper Fire-EMS said firefighters had been responding to a number of calls related to downed power lines in Casper. Capt. Pat McJunkin, speaking for the department, said calls about outages or branches on power lines began coming in around 10:30 p.m. Monday. As of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, the department had responded to 22 such calls within city limits.
McJunkin said there had not been any “significant hazards” within the city, though branches on power lines caused a handful of very small fires. Those fires extinguished themselves, he said.
Rocky Mountain Power in a statement advised customers to be prepared for prolonged outages with food, water and back-up batteries. The utility was grappling with large outages in three Mountain West states — Wyoming, Idaho and Utah — due to high winds.
“We make sure we are well-prepared with crews and equipment for severe weather events,” said Curtis Mansfield, Rocky Mountain Power’s vice president of operations. “This storm is impacting thousands of customers across our six-state territory and we appreciate our customers’ patience as we work to get everyone restored.”
The storm dumped 17 inches of snow on Casper Mountain and more than six inches in town, according to preliminary 24-hour totals from the National Weather Service in Riverton.
Eight inches of snow fell in Powder River, and 7.1 inches were recorded in Mills. Six inches fell in Evansville, and Alcova recorded three inches.
Elsewhere, Dubois saw eight inches, Lander got six inches, Green River saw five inches, Thermopolis recorded four inches, Buffalo and Rock Springs each saw three inches, Riverton saw 2.9 inches, Cody tallied one inch, and Jackson saw one-tenth of an inch, according to the weather service.
Meanwhile, southwest Wyoming experienced winds that exceeded 80 mph, resulting in not only downed power lines but also damage to some buildings. In Natrona County, the fastest winds were recorded at the Casper-Natrona County International Airport: 47 mph.
The storm forced several highways around Wyoming to close temporarily, including most of Interstate 80. The two highways leaving Casper from the west were also closed by wintry conditions — even though the summer doesn’t officially end until Sept. 22.
No traffic-related injuries from the storm had been reported as of 9:20 a.m., according to the Casper Police Department. Spokesperson Rebekah Ladd said there had been four accidents causing property damage, and those all occurred between 7:45 a.m. and 9 a.m. Tuesday morning. No accidents were reported overnight.
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