CHEYENNE – National Weather Service meteorologists say this week’s powerful blizzard broke a few records in Cheyenne, although most remain in place.
The storm turned most of the city into a ghost town after offices, schools, coffee shops and other businesses closed up shop Wednesday. All major highways, and many local roads, were impassable, prompting the Cheyenne Police Department to warn that anyone on the road may be ticketed at the discretion of officers.
Although Laramie County didn’t see Denver’s number of power outages, pileups and injuries, Crystal Worley, a meteorologist at NWS, said the storm was statistically significant.
The city’s snowfall between Wednesday and Thursday morning totaled 14.6 inches with wind speeds reaching 63 miles per hour. The lowest temperature clocked in at 18 degrees, with lower wind chills.
This broke the daily maximum snowfall record for March 13 in Cheyenne; the previous record was 9.3 inches in 1973.
Winter Storm Ulmer produced nearly 2 more inches of snow than the blizzard of March 2016 – the last time Cheyenne was under a blizzard warning.
To collect this information, meteorologists and forecasters worked overnight to measure snow depths every six hours, often wearing winter hiking gear to protect themselves.
“We go out and take an average of different spots,” Worley said.
“Obviously, we avoid the snow drifts because that’s not going to be representative. We use what the gauges measure and use a snow ratio to calculate how much snow we think fell.”
Worley said the storm’s pressure center was so low it quickly intensified the storm.
“The pressure center was that low in the middle,” she said, “that it created a tight pressure gradient, which increased the winds and intensity.”
Crews were still clearing roads Thursday afternoon, leaving many stuck.
Resident Michael Burris was digging out his front-wheel-drive Ford, hoping to make his way to Albuquerque, New Mexico. With most major highways still closed, his plans were likely to change.
“I’ve never seen this much snow in my life,” he said. “It’s definitely not like this in the desert.”
Jericho Richardson, an 18-year-old employee for the state, was shoveling waist-deep snow from the steps of the Emerson Building downtown.
“It’s been pretty hectic,” he said. “Just the snow, how deep it is.”
Local authorities say it could take days to clear up all of the snow, especially in the alleyways and side streets.