The interstate highway between Cheyenne and Laramie will remain closed through Saturday as clean up continues from the massive pileups in Thursday's snowstorm, the Wyoming Department of Transportation warned late Friday afternoon.
The department said I-80 was closed across much of the state, with the exception of a short section between Rawlins and Sinclair. Two of the semitrailers involved in Thursday's chain reaction crashes that involved dozens of vehicles west of Cheyenne were split in half and spilled their cargo onto the highway, it said. Efforts were still underway Friday to remove that cargo and the truck wreckage.
"It's a battle out there," said Ross Doman, spokesman for the Wyoming Department of Transportation. "The snow is 3 feet deep. It's extremely heavy, wet snow, so regular plows just aren't able to move it. We're trying to get rotary plows up there."
A 50-mile stretch of I-80 between Cheyenne and Laramie remains closed because of severe winter conditions.
The closure also forced officials to shut down about 100 miles of eastbound I-80 lanes between Rawlins and Laramie early Saturday morning.
The spring storm has dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of Wyoming since Wednesday, cancelling school and outdoor school activities. The University of Wyoming in Laramie closed at noon Friday because of the storm.
The heaviest snow has fallen in elevations above about 6,000 feet. I-80 between Cheyenne and Laramie in southeast Wyoming climbs up to about 8,600 feet. On Thursday, blinding snow resulted in nearly 40 separate traffic accidents, including several large pileups, on the both sides of the interstate.
No fatalities were reported, but about two dozen people were taken to a Cheyenne hospital. Those in the most critical condition had back and leg injuries.
Extra crews from other areas of the state were brought in to help in southeast Wyoming, Doman said. "We're throwing everything we have at it," he said.
Besides the heavy snow that needed to be cleared, the effort to clear the wreckage from the previous day was slowed by debris and cargo that had spilled from large tractor-trailer trucks involved in the wrecks, he said.
A 50-mile stretch of the interstate between Cheyenne and Laramie remained closed Friday. In addition, nearly 300 miles of eastbound lanes between the Utah border and Laramie were shut down.
"People can go west from Laramie, but they can't come back east," Department of Transportation spokesman Bruce Burrows said.