Trucker: Wyoming side of freeway far worse than Colorado during Thursday’s storm


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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Truckers know the weather in southern Wyoming in the winter can make or break a haul.

What some wonder, however, is why conditions on Highway 85 just across the Colorado state line were so much better than those in Wyoming during and after a major storm hit. hit the southern part of the state on Thursday.

Phil Losinski is hauling jet fuel for MG Oil/Heartland from South Dakota, and his run yesterday took him through Cheyenne just as the storm was setting in.

What he witnessed, he believes, was a lack of preparation on the part of the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

“The thing I noticed right away when I got to Cheyenne was that they hadn’t made any preparation for the storm that was coming,” Losinski told the Cowboy State Daily.

He said he expected de-icing compound to have been dropped in anticipation of the predicted snow, but saw no sign of it happening.

“I see this all the time in places that are concerned about traffic,” Losinski said. “They’ll drop de-icer before the storm arrives.”

Storm blocks traffic in Cheyenne

The storm system, which would eventually drop between 5 and 7 inches of snow over the Cheyenne region, had begun blowing through the city by midday. That’s when Losinski said he pulled over at a Sinclair station just off I-25 and saw traffic start to pile up on the exit ramp across the street. highway due to rapidly accumulating ice and snow.

“We have traffic stuck on the ramp leading to the Flying J truck stop, and it got stuck on top of the I-80 overpass,” he said.

While the traffic jam only lasted about 45 minutes, it was the general condition of the freeway that worried Losinski the most. He stayed in the Sinclair parking lot overnight, waking up to an icy parking lot.

“I was a little nervous this morning,” Losinski said. “But my friend I was talking to, he parked in Fort Lupton, Colorado, said it was fine there.”

Although he was driving through ice and snow on Interstate 85 as he headed south out of Cheyenne, Losinski said moments after crossing the Colorado border, the roads were instantly better.

“Just across the border, one foot in Colorado, bam! The road is pretty much dry and they’ve never had to hit it with a plow,” he said.

Losinski credited the bare roads with pre-storm preparations by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

“There was a lot of snow on the ground in Denver,” he said, “but the freeway was good.”

WYDOT Storm Response

Doug McGee, public relations specialist at WYDOT, told the Cowboy State Daily that while WYDOT sometimes pre-treats freeways ahead of storms, those measures don’t always work.

“We do pre-treatments in areas where it’s appropriate,” he said. “But the strong wind, high altitude and constant low temperatures make a lot of these chemicals work in other parts of the country, they just don’t work here the way they work there. And in fact, sometimes they can actually create more problems.

WYDOT uses a number of compounds to mitigate icy road conditions, such as a salt/sand mixture, brine and magnesium chloride, he said. In some parts of the state, a beet juice brine is applied to the highway to melt icy roads, but this compound is not available everywhere.

But WYDOT spokesman Jordan Achs said those measures aren’t always effective, depending on weather conditions.

“We use salt sand when conditions permit,” she said. “But sometimes the salt blows away with the wind, or it creates more ice because the blowing snow dilutes it and puts it back where it’s less effective in dealing with an icy situation.”

WYDOT employees also use the roads

McGee and Achs point out that snowplow crews in all parts of the state are committed to keeping roads safe because the lives of their families are also at stake.

“They’re not just driving (the roads) in the plows, but they’re driving them by taking their kids to school, to do things in their personal lives,” Achs said. “They are also part of their communities and they take great pride in making sure the roads are as clear as possible.”

She said WYDOT employees know their areas and make decisions about how to treat roads based on what they know works best.

“They definitely take a case-by-case approach to really focus on their area, their jurisdiction,” Achs said.

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