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Two feet of snow in Rawlins takes days to remove, but might help mitigate future water shortages

Snow piles in Rawlins.
Courtesy of the City of Rawlins
Snow piles in Rawlins, Wyo. near the police department. City workers are working 12-hour shifts to plow and remove snow after an unusual amount of snow fell in the city.

A snow storm that shutdown much of I-80 earlier this week left the south central city of Rawlins with an unusual amount of snow.

About two feet of snow fell in Rawlins between Sunday night and Wednesday morning, and the snow drifts were several feet deep. Even people with four-wheel drive were getting stuck in roadways.

Michael O’Brien, the utilities supervisor for the City of Rawlins, and his crew helped remove much of the snow. He said typically the area gets only a couple inches of snow in a storm.

“With this amount of snow though, it was very difficult,” he said. “I mean, we had everybody from all different departments, different vehicles, every department had a vehicle out there, backhoe skid steer somewhat, trying to remove snow in places.”

O’Brien said the team is still plowing a lot of the snow, but most roadways are passable. They have also been contending with wind that keeps drifting snow back into already plowed roads. O’Brien said the crew is also beginning to remove the snow out of town.

Bulldozer removing snow in Rawlins.
Courtesy of the City of Rawlins
Courtesy of the City of Rawlins
In some areas the snow banks in the middle of the road are five feet high. Normally, these banks are not much higher than one-foot.

The City of Rawlins estimates about 1,000 hours have been worked by employees to remove snow since Sunday evening.

On another note, Mira Miller, the community relations coordinator with the City of Rawlins, said it is possible the snowstorm could help with water shortages. For the last couple of years, the city has been under water restrictions due to infrastructure issues and drought. Miller said a lot of snow is accumulating in the nearby Sage Creek Basin this winter, where much of Rawlins’ water comes from.

“We want it to melt slowly,” Miller said. “If it all melts too quickly at once, then you know, it all comes downstream, and we have to store it and then it's harder to treat. So the ideal situation is a lot of snow that doesn't melt. You know, like all in early May all at once.”

Another smaller storm is expected in Rawlins on Friday, Jan. 6, but it will likely be just a couple inches of snow this time.

People who are aware of areas that still need to be plowed in the Rawlins can notify officials here.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.