Looking Back on Winter Storm Ulmer
It’s looking like Gillette’s made it through to the other side of what’s been called the worst blizzard since 2003—Winter Storm Ulmer.
While the name drew some chuckles on social media over the past two days, Ulmer itself was certainly nothing to laugh at.
A full day before it hit, news of Ulmer had the full attention of government agencies around Wyoming, who watched its progress as the storm moved across the central United States.
The National Weather Service in Rapid City, South Dakota, issued a blizzard warning for regions of South Dakota and Wyoming.
David King, county emergency management coordinator, was advising the public of “turtle weather” and to hunker down in their homes until it passed.
“If you have travel towards southeast Wyoming in your plans, you might as well cancel them,” King had written in an email.
By 6 p.m. March 12, the City of Gillette had declared a Level 1 snow emergency, instructing residents to remove their vehicle out of designated snow removal routes in preparation of the coming storm.
At 3 a.m., Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon closed all state government offices in Cheyenne, advising that he, along with the Wyoming Highway Patrol and the Office of Homeland Security, was keeping a close eye on Ulmer as it advanced into Cheyenne.
“We have closed roads and offices to protect the people of Wyoming and those travelling through the state,” Gordon had said in a statement.
“This storm has the potential to be particularly dangerous,” he continued, advising residents to stay where they were and shelter in place.
Ulmer hit Wright, hard, in the early morning hours March 13 with strong winds and copious amounts of snowfall, creating severe blizzard conditions.
Comments on social media, previously mocking the NWS for making a bad prediction that the storm would hit Gillette by 3 a.m. that day, quickly became concerned as Gillette swiftly turned from slightly overcast skies to a full white-out before noon.
By noon, the Wyoming Department of Transportation began issuing travel advisories on all major highways in eastern Wyoming and the City had declared a Level 2 snow emergency, advising against any unnecessary travel.
The Campbell County School District sent students home two hours early and government offices began shutting down, releasing non-essential employees.
Businesses around Gillette started closing up shop for the day as residents made for the shelter of their homes.
Gordon issued another warning at 6:45 p.m., saying that state offices in Cheyenne would remain closed through Thursday, March 14.
“I’ve been told that we have not seen a storm of this nature since the Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1979 and the 2003 storm,” Gordon said in a statement. “Reportedly, it has the same intensity as a Category 1 hurricane.”
By 10 p.m., March 13, the city had upgraded to a Level 3 snow emergency as Ulmer continued to rage.
In the space of 36 hours, Ulmer dumped nine inches of snow on Gillette and buffeted the area with 46 mph gusts of wind, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Eric Helgeson.
The storm shut down Campbell County schools and Gillette College March 14 and delayed the opening of government and local businesses until late morning.
But even though winds remain relatively high towards evening, it’s looking like Ulmer has almost dissipated entirely.
“It looks very quiet,” Helgeson advised. The weather over the next several days calls for gradually increasing temperatures and copious amounts of sunshine and blue skies.