on thin ice

A trio of geese finds a spot to perch on the ice covering half of the Fishing Lake on Tuesday morning. While southeast Wyoming and Colorado have been hit hard by a major winter storm, Gillette only saw a dusting of snow Monday night. The National Weather Service reports another strong system will move in later this week and dump 8-12 inches on Gillette.

Gillette was spared from a powerhouse snowstorm that has delivered more than a foot of snow in parts of the Rockies and southern Wyoming, but people trying to leave Campbell County to visit loved ones for the Thanksgiving holiday may have to change their plans.

Douglas had received 6-10 inches of snow from the weather system by mid-morning Tuesday, while no reports had come in yet in the Bill area, said Andrew Lyons, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Cheyenne.

As much as 32 inches of snow fell in Estes Park, Colorado, and 15 inches outside of Cheyenne overnight, Lyons said.

The storm caused the University of Wyoming to cancel classes, and the Wyoming Department of Transportation to shut down Interstate 80 between Rock Springs and Cheyenne. Motorists also are being advised to avoid traveling on Interstate 25 between Cheyenne and Casper because of blowing snow and reduced visibility.

At the Gillette-Campbell County Airport, two flights were canceled due to the storm that has forced Denver International Airport to cancel hundreds of flights Tuesday thanks to 8-12 inches of snow there.

“It impacts us greatly,” Gillette-Campbell County Airport Director Jay Lundell said. “It’s got the schedule messed up.”

At least 150 passengers have been affected, he said. The financial impact is unknown as Lundell would have to calculate the losses of things like passenger facility charges and fuel sales.

“It impacts people,” he said. “I don’t know how you put a dollar amount on that. It always seems to happen during the holidays, too. When Denver gets hit with a snow event like this, it sure affects everybody.”

A flight from Salina, Kansas, headed to Denver was rerouted through Gillette Tuesday morning, Lundell said. It will complete its flight when conditions clear up.

He expected flights out of Gillette to resume at 12:14 p.m. Tuesday.

It’s coming here

Tuesday’s storm is supposed to leave Douglas by noon and all of eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska by 6 p.m. Tuesday, but Campbell County residents should be prepared to take out the shovels as northeast Wyoming and parts of the Dakotas could be facing what Douglas and Denver faced.

The main event is likely to begin in Gillette late Friday morning or early afternoon before tampering off late Saturday, said Shane Eagan, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Rapid City, South Dakota. The track of the storm could change and that may affect how much snow falls in the area, but “things are trending toward a potentially bigger event.”

A strong upper-level system from the Pacific Ocean will bring in moisture that could result in at least 8-12 inches of snow being dumped across the area.

“It’s a pretty typical storm, at least in terms of where it’s coming from and how it’s forming,” he said. “This one looks to give us prolonged periods of heavy snow.”

While the current system went south and is affecting most of Wyoming, parts of Colorado and Nebraska, the next system will be farther north, “which puts us into the bull’s-eye,” Eagan said.

Travelers heading out Wednesday to see family for Thanksgiving can expect winds to gust as much as 40 mph with a mix of sun and clouds. Thanksgiving Day could produce about an inch of snow late, but the heavy amounts will come on Black Friday.

There have been nine snow “events” to move through Gillette so far this season. The city defines an event as when it sends its whole crew out to plow streets, Public Works Director Sawley Wilde said.

“We’re ahead of that already,” he said.

The Wyoming News Exchange and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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