‘Billion-dollar storm’ dumps more than a foot of snow on Campbell County

A loader continues to clear a path for motorists on Overdale Drive the day after a storm that dumped 16 inches of snow on northeastern Wyoming (Ryan Lewallen/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo.— Campbell County was still digging itself out Monday morning from a weekend storm that buffeted the region with near 60 mph winds and dumped 19 inches of snow on northeast Wyoming.

Severe blizzard conditions on Saturday resulted in the closure of nearly every major highway in Campbell County, two snow emergency declarations from the City of Gillette advising against non-emergency travel, dozens of stranded motorists, and one arrest.

A passenger vehicle stranded on the side of Westover Road (Ryan Lewallen/County 17)

The Campbell County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and Gillette Police Department (GPD) responded to nearly 50 calls combined to assist stranded motorists. At times, it was all deputies and officers could do to get residents someplace warm while leaving the vehicles to sit on the side of the road as the storm raged on.

Campbell County Sheriff Scott Matheny said his office’s tracked vehicle was worth its weight in gold during the storm and that it roamed from one end of the county to the other assisting stranded motorists as well as deputies and CCSO personnel who needed to get to work.

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A loader works to clear a path on Overdale Drive during a blizzard that dumped 16 inches of snow on northeast Wyoming (Ryan Lewallen/County 17)

Only one arrest was made in connection with a road closure, according to Matheny, who said that a 35-year-old male was taken into custody for interference when he refused to identify himself after being stopped for driving around a road closed gate on Highway 59.

For the most part, people did well staying put, Campbell County Emergency Management Coordinator David King said on April 25, though first responders were undoubtedly kept busy assisting stranded motorists and getting emergency care where it was needed.

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“The plow drivers were the real heroes,” King said, adding that they were out in severe whiteout conditions throughout the duration of the storm doing their best to keep the roads clear while avoiding becoming stuck themselves.

A Campbell County Fire Department vehicle stops to chat with passing snowmobilers (Ryan Lewallen/County 17)

Eventually, plow efforts were limited to assisting first responders to emergency calls with the snow being so heavy that plowed routes were filled with snow almost as quickly as they were cleared, King said, adding that snow accumulation nearly hit a record.

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The biggest thing with the storm was contending with how wet and heavy the snow was, King said, and the constant 56 mph winds that created monumental snowdrifts across Campbell County.

At 11 a.m. this morning, the Wyoming Department of Transportation was still trying to clear a 27-mile section of Highway 50 buried beneath a continuous 5-foot-deep snowdrift, per King.

“This was a billion-dollar storm, no question about it,” King said in terms of precipitation, adding that a blizzard like Saturday’s hasn’t happened in several years and gave the region a much-needed boost towards alleviating persistent drought conditions in Campbell County.

The National Weather Service (NWS) hit the nail on the head in terms of the storm’s severity, King said, adding that the three-day heads up allowed residents and the government ample time to prepare.

A motorist works to free a stranded pickup truck on Westover Road (Ryan Lewallen/County 17)