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Storm drops 9 inches of snow on Togwotee Pass

Sep 25, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The mountains above Dubois were transformed overnight by a winter storm that dropped 9 inches of snow on Togwotee Pass by 11:30 a.m., officials said.

"It got really bad," National Weather Service meteorologist Kelly Allen said Wednesday. "We have a picture (comparing) about 6:50 this morning and about 9:30 a.m. It's like night and day. ... It went nuts."

Allen said the Wyoming Department of Transportation issued a "no unnecessary travel" advisory for U.S. Highway 26/287 over the pass at about 9 a.m.

By 9:30 a.m., the highway was closed between Dubois and Moran Junction because of a crash involving a jackknifed tanker truck that had been hauling crude oil over the pass. WyDOT spokesman Cody Beers said a crew from Dubois had attempted to remove the tanker, but the large vehicle had almost tipped over in the process.

"They've dispatched a second wrecker out of Jackson so they can get it pulled out," Beers said at about 1 p.m. Wednesday. "It's on the way."

He added that a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper also became stuck on the pass.

Snow in the basin

Allen expected the heaviest snowfall on Togwotee to subside by Wednesday afternoon, with lighter precipitation Wednesday night tapering off by Thursday.

"There's a bit of a break ... then it comes back with a vengeance Thursday evening," she said. "That's when we start getting favorable upslope snow that will (fall) in the Wind River Basin here."

She forecast 1 to 2 inches of snow would hit Riverton on Thursday night into Friday morning, preceded by rainfall Wednesday and Thursday. A special weather statement from the NWS said 4 to 8 inches of snow could fall in the Lander foothills Thursday night and Friday, with 6 to 12 inches predicted along the east slope of the Wind River Mountains. The Wind River Basin could see 1 to 4 inches of snow.

Travel

South Pass likely will close by Friday morning, Allen said, and the Wind River Canyon will be "nasty" that day, too.

"And again, Togwotee Pass is going to be socked in pretty good," Allen said. "Friday is not a good day to travel -- Thursday night into Friday."

Beers said snow plow crews are on alert in preparation for the coming storm. He encouraged people to winterize their vehicles by checking their tires, changing their oil and packing cold weather gear like sleeping bags and coats in their trunks in case of an emergency.

"Get some food that doesn't deteriorate and pack some water," Beers said. "Have some sort of heat available in your car like a candle or something like that."

He advised people to stay with their vehicles if they end up stopped in a snow storm.

"That's the best protection you've got," Beers said. "Don't take off walking."

Warmer weekend

The coming snow will be heavy and wet, and Allen said it will pose a threat to power lines -- especially because the leaves haven't yet fallen off of local trees.

"We haven't had a hard freeze east of the (Continental) Divide yet," she said. "This will be our growing season ender, a heavy wet snow, which is never fun. ... It'll turn all the leaves brown."

The good news, Allen said, is that temperatures should be warmer this weekend.

"So it's not like we'll get snow and get socked in," she said. "It'll warm up, (and the snow) will melt."

According to the NWS, there is a 30 percent chance of showers in Riverton on Wednesday evening, when the temperature will fall to a low of 40 degrees. On Thursday, the high will be 47 degrees, with rain 70 percent likely, mainly after noon.

The low temperature Thursday evening will be 34 degrees, with rain before 9 p.m. followed by rain and snow between 9 p.m. and midnight and snow after midnight. The chance of precipitation is 90 percent for Thursday evening and Friday.

On Friday the high temperature should hit 43 degrees. The NWS says it will snow in Riverton before noon, with a chance of rain and snow after noon.

Friday night the weather should be mostly clear, with a low temperature of 29 degrees. Saturday, however, the sun is expected to come out, bringing the high temperature to 57 degrees. The forecast for Sunday is sunny with a high temperature of 68 degrees.

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