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UPDATE— Wednesday, Dec. 4, 7 a.m.: Sheridan County School District 3 will start two hours late this morning due to winter weather.
SHERIDAN — A winter weather system that moved through Sheridan Monday evening brought with it several inches of snow and bitter cold temperatures, closing roads and delaying schools in the area.
Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings Joe Lester said this week’s weather is the byproduct of a northern storm accelerated by a cold front.
“This storm system dropped out of Alaska and northwest Canada,” he said. “The combination of the strong system and cold air is good support for heavy snowfall.”
Lester said reports as of at 8 a.m. today showed Sheridan got at least 11 inches of snow, while Story and Burgess Junction got about 13. Snowfall in Banner was estimated at 4 inches.
The heavy snow and ice Tuesday equated to 0.47 inch precipitation, breaking a historic record of 0.40 inch, set in 1925.
“It really takes things coming together to produce snowfall like this,” Lester said, adding that he expects the snow to get lighter as temperatures plummet into the single digits and stay there for some time.
“It’s the length of the cold spell that will be remarkable.” Lester said. “It’s not a one or two day thing this time. It’s several days and quite possibly a week.”
Forecasts for into the weekend predict daily highs hovering around zero degrees along with light snow flurries. The NWS is forecasting highs today reaching just 14 degrees before falling to minus 4 in the overnight. When windchill is considered, it could feel like 10 to 20 degrees below zero.
“This is a significant cold spell we’re talking about,” he said. “These are the coldest temperatures for the longest spell we’ve seen for 15 years.”
City of Sheridan street crews started tackling snow accumulations on roads, and the longevity of the storm has demanded the situation be addressed as a marathon, and not a sprint, for snow plows.
Administrative Assistant for the city’s street department Bev Leichtnam said the workers have split into two crews. The first worked from 4 p.m. Monday until midnight. The second crew picked up the job at 1 a.m. today and was still at work as of 8:30 a.m.
“Right now, we’re working on priority one routes — those that go to the schools, the hospital, police department, and things like that,” Leichtnam said. “We’re trying to keep them open and pay extra attention to sanding hills, especially on Highland, Thurmond and Lewis.”
After priority one routes are established, Leichtnam said crews will then begin plowing ancillary streets that feed into the main thoroughfares of the community before they get to individual residential areas.
“We’re asking for patience,” she said, adding that it may take some time for plows to pass through residential areas. In the mean time, she said in-town travelers should allow for extra time to get to their destinations.
“We’ve all lived in Wyoming for a long time, but it seems like after the first snow, it takes some time for people to understand they have to be extra careful,” she said.
Tuesday morning, Interstate 90 between Sheridan and Buffalo was closed and most other roads leaving the city had no unnecessary travel advisories posted by the Wyoming Department of Transportation. The road opened just before noon, but WYDOT indicated the road was slick with blowing snow and limited visibility.
Sheridan College and Sheridan County School Districts 1 and 2, along with Holy Name Catholic School, planned to start two hours late. District 3 canceled classes for the day.
A winter storm warning remains in effect until Wednesday morning.