CHEYENNE – High-speed winds ripped through Cheyenne on Saturday, creating hazardous travel conditions and causing the Cheyenne Christmas Parade to be postponed until next weekend.
The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning effective until 5 a.m. today. Combined with more than a foot of snow on the ground from earlier in the week and Friday night, the wind created ground blizzards and near whiteout conditions in most parts of southeast Wyoming.
As of noon Saturday, NWS meteorologist Andrew Lyons said the forecast hadn’t really changed, with winds reaching speeds just below 50 mph near the weather station on Airport Parkway.
“We’ve been a bit lower than we initially thought here in Cheyenne itself, but ... the wind has definitely lived up to what’s been advertised,” Lyons said. “It would not surprise me if we had a gust over 60 (mph) in the city itself. Our maximum reading so far has been about 55 (mph), so very, very close.”
Winds were expected to drop off Saturday evening after sunset, though Lyons said 25-30 mph gusts would continue until this morning. As of 5 p.m. Saturday, 45 mph winds were still blowing in Cheyenne, though NWS meteorologist Crystal Worley said that would slow down overnight.
“Closer to 11 p.m. (or) midnight, that’s when we really expect the winds to take a sharp decline, and it’ll get much better from there and ease up on the blowing snow a bit,” Worley said.
Because of the weather, the 29th annual Cheyenne Christmas Parade, originally planned for Saturday night, was rescheduled for next Saturday, Dec. 7, at 5:30 p.m. in downtown Cheyenne.
Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce President Dale Steenbergen said the decision was made because of the hazardous travel conditions throughout the state. The National Weather Service had forecast 65-plus mph winds in every part of Wyoming.
“All the interstates are closed,” Steenbergen said. “We want folks from out in the county to come in and enjoy it, and it’s pretty tough on the little ones when the wind is blowing 60 (mph).”
Steenbergen said he wasn’t aware of any previous Christmas parade having to be rescheduled. While he acknowledged a few people and floats may not be able to participate next weekend, he said he was still expecting a great parade.
“We want to make sure everyone is safe and has a good time,” he said.
Some power outages were reported Saturday, as 94 customers of Black Hills Energy lost power overnight in northern Laramie County. Black Hills Energy spokeswoman Laurie Farkas said road conditions prevented the power crew from reaching the area Saturday night.
“The first thing in the morning, we will have crews out as quick as we can to try to get those remaining customers back up and running,” Farkas said. “We’re kind of going into safety mode now with our crews.”
Farkas said Black Hills Energy has started a notification service for people to receive text updates about power outages and estimated restoration times.
“We know that everybody’s got their cellphone with them most of the time, and if we can give them that information at the ease of their fingertips, that’s just a wonderful service that we’re happy to be rolling out and providing now,” Farkas said.
Interstate 25 and Interstate 80 were also shut down in all directions in the area. The Wyoming Department of Transportation estimated those roads wouldn’t reopen until between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. today.
Conditions were even worse in other parts of Wyoming, however, with blizzard conditions reported north and west of Laramie County. At one point, nearly every major highway in the state was closed.
After the high wind warning expires at 5 a.m. today, Lyons said people should expect chilly temperatures and some sunshine Sunday.
“That’ll help maybe get a head start on some of this snow that we’ve been blowing around all day,” Lyons said.