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Plowing

A snow plow works to clear Interstate 25 in March 2015 north of Casper. Four motorists collided with WYDOT snowplows in 2017. 

The Wyoming Department of Transportation would really like drivers to stop crashing into its snowplows. Two motorists drove into WYDOT plows during the first half of December, bringing the state’s 2017 snow plow collision tally to four. That is 1.6 under the average number of annual snowplow collisions, with less than two weeks left in the year.

“We’re urging motorists to be patient when driving in wintry conditions,” WYDOT assistant chief engineer Mark Gillett said in a statement Tuesday. “Our snowplow drivers are out there working hard to clear the roads and make them safe for motorists to get to their destinations.”

Snowplows drive at between 25 and 45 mph depending on weather conditions and are often hard to see due to blowing snow. The first collision took place Dec. 4 on Interstate 80 near Rock Springs, when a driver hit the back of a plow. The second occurred last week on Interstate 25 just north of Cheyenne, when a driver damaged the sand box attached to the plow.

While neither collision resulted in injuries, the plows were out of commission until they could be repaired.

“A 12-foot plow can create a pretty good fog of snow,” Gillett said. “If a motorist is coming up behind a cloud of snow, they shouldn’t just drive into it because there may be a snowplow in there.”

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The National Weather Service has special weather statements out for almost all of central and western Wyoming, with at least an inch of snow expected Wednesday at low elevations in many counties and up to 6 inches in the mountains.

WYDOT has four prioritized tiers for snow plowing:

  • Interstate 80 and a portion of Interstate 25 running from the Colorado border to several miles north of Cheyenne are considered the top priority and crews will work up to 24 hours per day to keep the road surfaces clear of snow.
  • The remainder of Interstate 25 and Interstate 90 — along with a few other short stretches of state highway and the entirety of the federal highways connecting Lander and Riverton to the Big Horn Basin and Park County — are also considered high priority and will be plowed up to 20 hours per day if necessary
  • A second tier of highways are plowed less frequently, with a goal “to keep the roadway passable for drivers who are taking reasonable winter driving precautions, although with less emphasis on keeping the roadway bare.” These routes include roads east out of Casper, including to Fremont County and Carbon County, along with most highways in western Wyoming.
  • The two final tiers include highways that are only cleared after most important routes have been plowed, generally roads that run parallel or close to the larger routes, and roads that are usually closed for the entire winter season, primarily located in Yellowstone National Park.

The agency has 400 trucks that can be used for plowing snow and budgeted $25.9 million for snowplowing equipment and personnel costs for the current fiscal year, according to spokeswoman Aimee Inama.

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Arno Rosenfeld covers state politics.

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