James Little, who is homeless in Cheyenne, is seen crossing Crow Creek during a blizzard on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Cheyenne. White-out conditions closed I-80, I-25, and U.S. 85, effectively closing off the state capital from Nebraska, Colorado and the rest of Wyoming. When asked where he's taking shelter from the storm, Little still said he was figuring it out. Wyoming Tribune Eagle/file

CHEYENNE – Local students will start their Thanksgiving break a day early as a possibly record-breaking winter storm pummels the area.

Southeast Wyoming is expected to get 10 to 16 inches of snow in a storm that started Monday and will continue through tonight, according to the National Weather Service office in Cheyenne.

A winter storm warning will remain in effect through 6 p.m. today. During a conference call Monday morning, the Weather Service was projecting eight to 12 inches of snow, but the projections increased throughout the day Monday.

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, travel conditions in the area will be hazardous, NWS meteorologist Andrew Lyons said.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to drive through the next 12 to 36 hours,” Lyons said. “This snow is going to come down very fast, and it’s also going to reduce visibility by quite a bit, so it’s unlikely a lot of these plows are going to be able to keep up with some of these snowfall rates.”

The areas west of Cheyenne could see blizzard-like conditions, with gusting winds along Interstate 80 projected to reach 35 to 40 mph speeds.

As of Monday evening, the Wyoming Department of Transportation had already closed much of the I-80 corridor as conditions continued to worsen.

The heaviest snowfall was expected to occur overnight Monday, Lyons said.

“We are expecting snow rates above an inch an hour (in that time frame), so that’s going to be obviously pretty difficult to keep up with,” Lyons said.

The University of Wyoming announced Sunday that classes would be canceled Monday and today to give students time to safely get home for the holidays.

By Monday evening, a host of other closures had been announced, including:

  • Laramie County School Districts 1 and 2 canceled all classes and scheduled activities for today.
  • Laramie County Community College closed all of its campuses at 5 p.m. Monday, and they will remain closed today.
  • Gov. Mark Gordon announced in a tweet late Monday that Wyoming state and government offices in Cheyenne will be closed today.
  • The city of Cheyenne announced a complete closure of non-emergency offices today. This includes staff at the Board of Public Utilities, but residents are asked to call 307-637-6471 if they have a water or sewer emergency. Due to the closure, transit buses will not be available. Any unnecessary travel is discouraged during the course of this storm. The city of Cheyenne will notify employees and the public if weather will interfere with normal business operations past today.
  • Laramie County commissioners were expected to evaluate conditions this morning to determine the level of closure for county employees.
  • Cheyenne Regional Medical Center and Cheyenne Regional Medical Group announced the following would be closed today: Cheyenne Cardiology Associates; Cheyenne Children’s Clinic (both locations); Cheyenne Family Medicine; Cheyenne Health Plaza Internal Medicine; Cheyenne Plaza Primary Care; Consultants in Surgery; Ear, Nose and Throat; Endocrinology; Family First; Medical Specialty Clinic; Plastic, Reconstructive, Cosmetic & Hand Surgery; Wyoming Orthopedics & Sports Medicine; Wyoming Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Therapy; Laramie County WIC; Warren Air Force Base WIC Office.
  • HealthWorks will be closed today.
  • The Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Medical Center was planning to open late at 10 a.m. today.
  • The Laramie County Economic Development Joint Powers Board meeting scheduled for 7 a.m. today was canceled.

While wind chill values could reach single digits during the storm, the Weather Service is not expecting any subzero temperatures, and the storm won’t bring much ice, Lyons said.

NWS meteorologist Brandon Wills said wind won’t be as much of a concern. Wind gusts in Laramie County were projected to reach speeds of 25 to 30 mph around 7 a.m. today.

Cheyenne could see more snow later this week, based on current forecasts, though Lyons said it was too early to nail down details about the next storm system.

“It’s looking like it’s mainly going to effect western portions of the area, and it may not spill into the plains as much, so more Rawlins to Laramie, that kind of area,” Lyons said of the future storm. “But again, we’re kind of focused on this upcoming event.”

Tom Coulter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at tcoulter@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3124. Follow him on Twitter at @tomcoulter_.

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