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Motorists asked to heed road warnings

Dec 21, 2016 By Kelli Ameling, Staff Writer

Fremont County drivers have seen an increase in warnings and closures on highways this year as agencies are trying to be proactive to prevent crashes and injuries.

5-hour closure

On Monday, the Wyoming Department of Transportation closed Wyoming Highway 789 between Lander and Muddy Gap after three crashes happened in two hours.

According to Wyoming Highway Patrol public relations Sgt. David Wagener, those crashes happened within two hours of each other and resulted in a five-hour highway closure.

One of those crashes happened after a semitrailer jackknifed in 70 mph winds on an icy hill on the Beaver Rim portion of Highway 789.

The semitrailer was carrying an 8,000-pound load.

"In order to remove the disabled semi, two WYDOT plow trucks had to park parallel to where the trailer would be pulled to as a wind block to ensure the trailer would not tip over," Wagener said in a press release.

The plow trucks then had to travel parallel to the trailer until the caravan got to the bottom of the hill and into a pullout sheltered by the terrain.

"It was an extraordinary effort to remove the disabled combination by WYDOT and Bull's Towing in order to get the highway open," WHP Lt. Lee Pence said in a press release.

Being proactive

WDOT Public Relations Specialist Cody Beers said his agency has been working to be proactive to try to prevent situations like the one on Beaver Rim from happening.

"The idea is to keep the road open," Beers said, noting WYDOT has been working to get as much information out to drivers as possible.

Beers said high-wind warnings on roads and highways across the state, such as recent "closed to light and high-profile vehicles" warnings on South Pass, help prevent crashes that would result in road closures.

With new technology, WYDOT is able to be more advanced in gathering information weather patterns and road conditions in order to make decisions about warnings and closures. For example, the agency is able to monitor wind gusts and speeds at the top of Red Canyon in order to put out warnings on South Pass.

"We are being proactive for human safety," Beers said.

Obey closures

Wagener said some drivers are not obeying warnings and closures, resulting in crashes statewide.

"As wind speeds are exceeding 60 mph in certain parts of Wyoming, many highways have been closed to light and high profile vehicles to avoid those vehicles becoming a hazard to themselves and other motorists," Wagener said.

"Despite the closures, motorists proceeding in light and high profile vehicles have been crashing."

WHP investigated 80 crashes statewide Monday through 9:45 a.m. Tuesday. Many of the incidents were due to inclement weather and high wind speeds.

Of those crashes, 27 involved injuries, 53 involved property damage only, 18 were in high-wind areas along Interstate 25 in Platte County and 28 were in high-wind areas along I-80 between Laramie and Rawlins.

"These high wind related crashes are demonstrating the importance for motorists to not proceed when roads are closed to light and high profile vehicles due to high wind speeds," Wagener stated.

Information about closures and advisories is available at wyoroad.info and are also displayed on the variable message signs along closed highways.

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