blizzard file

A man is seen crossing Crow Creek during a blizzard on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Cheyenne. Wyoming Tribune Eagle/file

This story has been updated with new information from the National Weather Service.

CHEYENNE – With the city’s first snow of the season set to begin tonight, local officials are advising citizens to properly prepare for the wintry weather.

Cheyenne is currently slated to get 3 to 4 inches during the storm, according to the National Weather Service. A winter storm watch will remain in effect from 6 p.m. today through noon Friday.

The Weather Service is projecting a rapid drop in temperatures tonight, plummeting from about 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the late afternoon to about 20 degrees just a few hours later.

The rapid drop means drivers should be cautious tonight and in the next few days, NWS Cheyenne Science and Operations Officer Rob Cox said.

“We could see a period of some freezing drizzle, so roadways could become a bit slick Wednesday night,” Cox said Tuesday.

Most of the snow is forecast to fall overnight and into Thursday morning. The wind chill is expected to hit subzero temperatures Thursday and Friday, with the minimum wind chill in Cheyenne projected at -8 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Weather Service.

Wyoming Department of Transportation has warned residents to take caution if they drive across the state in the next few days. In a news release sent Monday, the department recommended people have a winter safety kit in their vehicle, which should include nonperishable food, water, essential medications, blankets, flashlights and a first aid kit.

The department encouraged travelers to check the latest WYDOT road and travel information by calling 511, going online to http://wyoroad.info or downloading the WYDOT smartphone app.

“Drivers need to keep their hands on the wheel, phone down and eyes on the road,” WYDOT spokesman Cody Beers said in a prepared statement. “The Wyoming 511 pre-trip app will give you road conditions and traffic incidents for the route you are traveling, improving traveler safety.”

Cheyenne could reach a daily record low Friday, as current projections have temperatures reaching as low as 7 degrees Fahrenheit that day.

These low temperatures mean residents should make sure their pets are in a safe situation, Cheyenne Animal Shelter CEO Don Kremer said Tuesday.

“A good rule of thumb is simply that if it’s too cold to be outside comfortably with a sweater on, you should bring your pet inside,” Kremer said.

Kremer noted some animals, just like humans, can suffer from frostbite and other life-threatening illnesses when they’re left in the cold.

In addition to protecting their pets, residents should take precautions to ensure their water pipes don’t freeze, according to a news release from the city’s Board of Public Utilities.

Homeowners may consider the following precautions, as outlined in the release:

  • Know the location of your water shutoff valve and test it regularly.
  • Insulate pipes, especially those that are vulnerable to the cold or have caused problems in the past.
  • Disconnect, drain and store all garden hoses.
  • Turn off the water to your sprinkler system to avoid cracks and leaks, drain valves and use compressed air to blow out the remaining water in your sprinkler system.
  • Drain outdoor faucets and exposed pipes.

Trees can be especially susceptible to damage during snowstorms early in the year. Rooted in Cheyenne, a nonprofit group that partners with the Cheyenne Urban Forestry Division, reminded the public Tuesday of the risks winter storms pose for trees and plants in a Facebook post.

“With the impending snowstorm moving in, it’s important to make sure that you gently brush the snow off of your trees frequently,” the post said. “With the leaves still on the trees, they are more prone to limb breakage with a heavy, wet snow load.”

UW Extension horticulture specialist Karen Panter agreed, adding people should make sure lawns and outdoor plants are watered before Thursday. She said water is a great insulator, and it changes temperature very slowly.

“Dry soil isn’t and doesn’t, and can actually heave and separate, damaging root systems,” Panter said in a news release. “The best way to help plants through the winter is to make sure the soil is moist. People seem to think watering will keep plants from going into dormancy, which isn’t true at all. Dormancy is a complicated combination of lower temperatures, lower levels of sunshine, shorter days, etc.”

The average date of Cheyenne’s first measurable snowfall is Oct. 18. The earliest snowfall was Sept. 11, 1974, while the latest occurred Dec. 10, 1963.

This week’s storm marks the official transition into Wyoming’s brisk fall season, Cox said.

“Usually we do get a storm in October – sometimes one, sometimes two – but typically it does hit the first few weeks of October, so it’s pretty common to see one around this time,” Cox said.

The wintry weather will be gone soon, though, as Cox said Cheyenne will likely see warmer temperatures next week.

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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