20190315-news-snow-jb-08

Jericho Richardson, 18, of Cheyenne shovels the steps of the Emerson Building in the aftermath of a severe bomb cyclone Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Cheyenne. According to the National Weather Service, 14.6 inches of snow fell on the city, with maximum wind speeds clocking above 60 miles per hour. Jacob Byk/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – After days of enjoyable spring weather, winter returns to Cheyenne and southeast Wyoming today.

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service office in Cheyenne have issued a blizzard warning for central and eastern Laramie County and Goshen County, including the cities of Cheyenne and Pine Bluffs, from noon today through Thursday afternoon.

Winter storm warnings are in effect for the remainder of Laramie County and southwestern and eastern Platte County, including the city of Wheatland, from noon today through Thursday morning.

According to Rob Cox, a Cheyenne-based meteorologist, a cold front will move south across Laramie County around sunrise this morning and bring much colder temperatures to the area. After warming to 70 degrees Tuesday, forecasters expect temperatures to fall into the mid-20s by 5 p.m. today.

“We may see some freezing drizzle (this) morning,” Cox said. “That freezing drizzle may last until 9 or 10 a.m., but it’s going to get pretty windy then.”

Warning areas could change based on storm conditions. Roads will be slick, and hazardous conditions could impact the morning or evening commute.

Cox said residents can expect winds of about 20-30 mph when the cold front comes through the area this morning. Winds will then increase to about 30-35 miles per hour this afternoon, with gusts up to 55 mph possible. Those conditions are expected to produce areas of blowing snow and reduced visibility, creating hazardous travel conditions.

“In the afternoon, things are going to get bad in a hurry,” Cox said. “We’re looking at snowfall to begin right around noon. It’s going to be pretty intense at times, as well.”

Estimated snowfall in southeast Wyoming ranges from 6-8 inches in Cheyenne to 8-12 inches in Wheatland and Torrington between noon today and 6 p.m. Thursday.

Cheyenne Police Department spokesman Officer Kevin Malatesta said motorists should heed any warnings from local authorities and monitor weather conditions. He said motorists who must get out today should drive with caution.

“This is the end of the winter driving season,” Malatesta said. “Some people might think it’s over, but people still need to adjust to those conditions.”

Mary Quast, spokeswoman for Laramie County School District 1, said Tuesday afternoon that the district did not have immediate plans to close today. She said officials would make a decision based on the National Weather Service forecast and road conditions by 5:30 a.m.

If a decision is made for a district-wide school closure, the district will notify the media, as well as use an automated rapid notification system that sends phone, email and text messages.

“If you do not receive a call, that means school is in session,” Quast said.

She said parents and students can also find information on closures on the district website at www.laramie1.org and its Facebook page.

Matt Murphy, Laramie-based spokesman for the Wyoming Department of Transportation, said travelers in southeast Wyoming should also continue to monitor weather forecasts, as expected snowfall amounts can change.

“Heavy snow and strong winds are possible, especially east of the summit (between Cheyenne and Laramie), which may result in poor visibility,” Murphy said. “Drivers should plan ahead for this storm and should use caution and winter driving skills if they’re on the roads. WYDOT is continuing to monitor this storm, and maintenance crews are in place to keep the roads open as much as possible.”

Meteorologists expect the greatest snow accumulations across the northern Nebraska panhandle, where blizzard warnings are in effect from midday today through Thursday afternoon.

Road and travel conditions will gradually improve late Thursday into Friday.

Travelers can get the latest road conditions by calling 511 or going online to www.wyoroad.info.

Steve Knight is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3182 or sknight@wyomingnews.com.

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