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Old 11-14-2010, 06:20 AM
 
8,075 posts, read 20,930,144 times
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Default Cheyenne to Fort Collins Commute weather/roads

We've had several threads asking about this commute, and I've mentioned how the localized weather can result in very treacherous driving conditions.

Well, this Saturday evening ... while there was a widespread early winter cool temps and virtually no snow on the roads ....

My wife returned from a trip into Colorado. Just North of Fort Collins, there was a fast moving storm cell that brought blizzard conditions to I-25 a few miles North of Fort Collins. By the time she passed the power plant, the road was totally iced up with about 1-2" of snow on top of that ... and the visibility was a matter of yards in the intense blowing snow and fog.

It took her over an hour to make it from Wellington to Cheyenne, traveling at slow speeds ... 30-35 mph, tops, and slower than that for most of it. She was passed by semi's still going 65+, and a number of 4x4 pick-up trucks. A few miles later, she saw several semi's off the road ... and 3 of the pick-up trucks traveling closely together had crashed into each other, a big fender-bender (no apparent injuries) accident where the drivers didn't have the sense to pull over to the side of the road. She literally had to thread her way past the group as she drove by, with much less than 1/4 mile of visibility to reveal to her the accident scene ahead. Fortunately, she was going slowly enough that she was able to drive past the group without losing control of her Subaru AWD wagon.

When she got home, she pulled up the NOAA weather depiction. It showed a gray area about 25 miles long by 3-4 miles wide rapidly moving on a SEasterly track from Laramie through the I-25 Colorado/Wyoming border area, with a bright green cell depicted in the center of the storm cell mass. That's the cell she drove through. By 5 AM (when I checked this morning), that cell had traveled all the way to Oklahoma ... very fast moving.

But it does again make my point that we don't necessarily have to have a big regional storm with lots of snowfall to shut down roads, or to make for some very treacherous localized driving conditions for awhile. If you were commuting home to either Ft Collins or Cheyenne this last evening, it was challenging ... and dangerous ... driving for quite a stretch. Put this in perspective ... Ft Collins was clear roads, as was Cheyenne and I-80 East of Cheyenne (although our county road for the last 6 miles homeward was almost zero visibility in the fog) .... and it isn't even serious winter climate and there's almost no snow cover on the ground yet this winter season.

I-80 from Cheyenne to Laramie was closed down by this cell passage, too.
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Old 11-14-2010, 08:31 PM
 
Location: Casper, WY
240 posts, read 499,418 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
It took her over an hour to make it from Wellington to Cheyenne, traveling at slow speeds ... 30-35 mph, tops, and slower than that for most of it. She was passed by semi's still going 65+, and a number of 4x4 pick-up trucks.
Just something to consider for those not used to our sometimes treacherous road conditions--often times we get what we call ground blizzards. When the wind blows all that snow across the road it sometimes isn't very "high", but it is thick enough to not be able to see but for a matter of yards. The semi's and taller trucks, their cabs sitting much higher, can sometimes see much further than you can in a car--and so they don't adjust their speeds accordingly.

Additionally, especially in a crosswind, be aware that when they pass you they have now disrupted the airflow that you've been unconsciously correcting for with your steering wheel--and it will sometimes be enough to make your tires break traction if you're on ice. A firm grip (but not whiteknuckled), and awareness of that possibility can greatly help the outcome.
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Old 11-14-2010, 09:06 PM
 
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I don't know why you're so dead set on discouraging people between living in Fort Collins and Cheyenne. I know someone who commuted from Loveland to Cheyenne every day for more than 15 years, rarely missing a day of week. Believe it or not, she is still alive and not a paraplegic.

For the extreme quality of life increase that you get in Fort Collins vs. Cheyenne, it is more than worth it for people of a certain lifestyle to live in Fort Collins. Sure, some people enjoy that extremely slow pace of Cheyenne, while some enjoy a more lively town like Fort Collins.
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Old 11-14-2010, 10:53 PM
 
Location: Spots Wyoming
17,426 posts, read 21,666,576 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by new2colo View Post
I don't know why you're so dead set on discouraging people between living in Fort Collins and Cheyenne. I know someone who commuted from Loveland to Cheyenne every day for more than 15 years, rarely missing a day of week. Believe it or not, she is still alive and not a paraplegic.

For the extreme quality of life increase that you get in Fort Collins vs. Cheyenne, it is more than worth it for people of a certain lifestyle to live in Fort Collins. Sure, some people enjoy that extremely slow pace of Cheyenne, while some enjoy a more lively town like Fort Collins.
I understand why. Most folks that log on here and want to know if a person can commute have never driven in snow or are unfamiliar with the weather Microsystems found along the face of the Rockies. Sure, some folks do it and some get by with little or no problems. But google traffic fatalities, in particular, that corridor and you'll see why it's not recommended.

I've driven that stretch numerous times. Weather doesn't scare me. However, the weather combined with the traffic pattern that flows through there will raise the hair on the back of my neck every time.

And, depending on how you look at it, "For the extreme quality of life increase that you get in Cheyenne vr. Fort Collins, it's more then worth it for people of certain lifestyle to live in Cheyenne. Sure, some people enjoy extremely fast pace of Fort Collins, while some enjoy a more relaxed town like Cheyenne."
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Old 11-15-2010, 10:42 AM
 
Location: Auburn
1,982 posts, read 2,024,874 times
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[SIZE=3]Years ago driving home for Christmas vacation from UW, I was in a ton 2 wheel drive Chevy truck with a slide in camper shell bolted into the bed . Well heading west on I-80 west of Laramie I noticed my camper lifting up, the nuts had come off the bolts, tied it back down with a lariat. Stopped at Arlington there was a little connivance store and coffee shop then at the KOA. Went in it was full a young man came up to me he asked if I’d help he had run off the road and his sister was still in the car. Told him yes but I needed to get a hot drink and settle down a bit. Well turns out he was the Penitentiary’s wardens son. He got on the pay pone called his father who was in Cheyenne in a meeting with the Governor, a few minutes later a Patrolman shows up and gets the young man, and said the interstate was closed. We all got kicked out, went out and the wind had filled my radiator full of snow cleaned it out and the wind chill had cooled the motor and battery that I luckily got it started. Onto Rawlins, I could not see the spare tire on front of my truck, drove with the door open looking at the strip on the road hoping not to get hit or hit anybody. Clear air on the CB radio (dating my self) oh wants a horror of a trip.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] Drove from Laramie 2 years ago in December after watching our daughter pole-vault at an indoor college tract meet. 35 mph from Laramie to the Hwy 30 turn off just past Little America [/SIZE]
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Old 11-15-2010, 10:54 AM
 
2,422 posts, read 1,721,001 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
We've had several threads asking about this commute, and I've mentioned how the localized weather can result in very treacherous driving conditions.

Well, this Saturday evening ... while there was a widespread early winter cool temps and virtually no snow on the roads ....

My wife returned from a trip into Colorado. Just North of Fort Collins, there was a fast moving storm cell that brought blizzard conditions to I-25 a few miles North of Fort Collins. By the time she passed the power plant, the road was totally iced up with about 1-2" of snow on top of that ... and the visibility was a matter of yards in the intense blowing snow and fog.

It took her over an hour to make it from Wellington to Cheyenne, traveling at slow speeds ... 30-35 mph, tops, and slower than that for most of it. She was passed by semi's still going 65+, and a number of 4x4 pick-up trucks. A few miles later, she saw several semi's off the road ... and 3 of the pick-up trucks traveling closely together had crashed into each other, a big fender-bender (no apparent injuries) accident where the drivers didn't have the sense to pull over to the side of the road. She literally had to thread her way past the group as she drove by, with much less than 1/4 mile of visibility to reveal to her the accident scene ahead. Fortunately, she was going slowly enough that she was able to drive past the group without losing control of her Subaru AWD wagon.

When she got home, she pulled up the NOAA weather depiction. It showed a gray area about 25 miles long by 3-4 miles wide rapidly moving on a SEasterly track from Laramie through the I-25 Colorado/Wyoming border area, with a bright green cell depicted in the center of the storm cell mass. That's the cell she drove through. By 5 AM (when I checked this morning), that cell had traveled all the way to Oklahoma ... very fast moving.

But it does again make my point that we don't necessarily have to have a big regional storm with lots of snowfall to shut down roads, or to make for some very treacherous localized driving conditions for awhile. If you were commuting home to either Ft Collins or Cheyenne this last evening, it was challenging ... and dangerous ... driving for quite a stretch. Put this in perspective ... Ft Collins was clear roads, as was Cheyenne and I-80 East of Cheyenne (although our county road for the last 6 miles homeward was almost zero visibility in the fog) .... and it isn't even serious winter climate and there's almost no snow cover on the ground yet this winter season.

I-80 from Cheyenne to Laramie was closed down by this cell passage, too.
Wow, I'm glad I left early that day. I was Cheyenne for a couple of days and had hoped to spend some more time sightseeing before heading back to Denver on Saturday. When I read the weather report I decided to head back earlier than planned. By 10:00 am it was already snowing and getting windy. On a sunny day that trip between Fort Collins and Cheyenne is not a bad drive, but I would hate to make that journey when it is snowing or raining hard.
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Old 11-16-2010, 06:48 AM
 
367 posts, read 545,256 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
We've had several threads asking about this commute, and I've mentioned how the localized weather can result in very treacherous driving conditions.

Well, this Saturday evening ... while there was a widespread early winter cool temps and virtually no snow on the roads ....

My wife returned from a trip into Colorado. Just North of Fort Collins, there was a fast moving storm cell that brought blizzard conditions to I-25 a few miles North of Fort Collins. By the time she passed the power plant, the road was totally iced up with about 1-2" of snow on top of that ... and the visibility was a matter of yards in the intense blowing snow and fog.

It took her over an hour to make it from Wellington to Cheyenne, traveling at slow speeds ... 30-35 mph, tops, and slower than that for most of it. She was passed by semi's still going 65+, and a number of 4x4 pick-up trucks. A few miles later, she saw several semi's off the road ... and 3 of the pick-up trucks traveling closely together had crashed into each other, a big fender-bender (no apparent injuries) accident where the drivers didn't have the sense to pull over to the side of the road. She literally had to thread her way past the group as she drove by, with much less than 1/4 mile of visibility to reveal to her the accident scene ahead. Fortunately, she was going slowly enough that she was able to drive past the group without losing control of her Subaru AWD wagon.

When she got home, she pulled up the NOAA weather depiction. It showed a gray area about 25 miles long by 3-4 miles wide rapidly moving on a SEasterly track from Laramie through the I-25 Colorado/Wyoming border area, with a bright green cell depicted in the center of the storm cell mass. That's the cell she drove through. By 5 AM (when I checked this morning), that cell had traveled all the way to Oklahoma ... very fast moving.

But it does again make my point that we don't necessarily have to have a big regional storm with lots of snowfall to shut down roads, or to make for some very treacherous localized driving conditions for awhile. If you were commuting home to either Ft Collins or Cheyenne this last evening, it was challenging ... and dangerous ... driving for quite a stretch. Put this in perspective ... Ft Collins was clear roads, as was Cheyenne and I-80 East of Cheyenne (although our county road for the last 6 miles homeward was almost zero visibility in the fog) .... and it isn't even serious winter climate and there's almost no snow cover on the ground yet this winter season.

I-80 from Cheyenne to Laramie was closed down by this cell passage, too.
Ah.........winter in Cheyenne, lovely.
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Old 11-16-2010, 09:29 AM
 
258 posts, read 553,172 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by new2colo View Post
I don't know why you're so dead set on discouraging people between living in Fort Collins and Cheyenne. I know someone who commuted from Loveland to Cheyenne every day for more than 15 years, rarely missing a day of week. Believe it or not, she is still alive and not a paraplegic.

For the extreme quality of life increase that you get in Fort Collins vs. Cheyenne, it is more than worth it for people of a certain lifestyle to live in Fort Collins. Sure, some people enjoy that extremely slow pace of Cheyenne, while some enjoy a more lively town like Fort Collins.
It's not a matter of discouraging people from living there, as I read the OP, it's just being aware. I drove Teton Pass in the winter and am, also, still alive. But, people who aren't aware of the possibility of crazy weather and conditions are the ones zooming along on the ice covered highways endangering others. We've all seen them and shook our heads as they careen down the road.

My smile comes when I pass them in the ditch as I carefully pass by!
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Old 11-16-2010, 09:56 PM
 
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Just for grins ... I pulled up the WYDOT road closures and advisories this evening after looking at the NWS Enahnced Radar Mosaic depiction for the area. The cell moving through this afternoon and evening is about 80 miles x 20 miles is size ... and extended all the way from Laramie down along the Front Range of Colorado, along I-25. A significantly larger cell than came through last Saturday, with still a very minimal amount of actual ground stickin' snow fall.

I-80 West of Cheyenne is CLOSED all the way to Rock Springs this evening. Laramie is shut down in any direction except to head to Woods Landing.

I-25 South of Cheyenne has all the nasty road conditions ... snow, drifting snow, ice, stong wind gusts, low visibility, and an advisory that "light trailers" are prohibited this evening. Yes, the road is open to traffic. But it's another white-knuckle commute this eve between Cheyenne and Fort Collins over the pass between them.

Would I encourage folks who aren't fully prepared ... equipment wise, road driving skills wise, or mentally tough enough to take this type of driving risk as a frequent event? Not especially.

Nor would I take the advice of one who hasn't experienced these driving conditions for years on a schedule, let alone have been through one winter of driving this yet ... as a good indicator of local knowledge of what the reality is to drive this route.

I've only been driving/sailing/flying this area since 1964, so I do have a reasonable amount of first-hand knowledge of the regional climate/micro-climates, and some mild through severe winters through that time period. Additionally, my neighbors include a range of Sheriff's deputies, Wyoming Highway Patrolmen, a number of first responders, tow truck operators, paint and body shop owners/techs, and a 10 year in current service Sheriff Dept dispatcher. When we get together and visit about the driving conditions in the area, I get a whole different perspective on the severity and risks of driving this. That's on top of doing business with a number of neighbors who have made the bulk of their living for the past few years providing a 24/7 emergency road clean-up and salvage business from all the wrecks on the roads ... we get the broken cases of all kinds of foodstuffs and commodities they clean up from wrecked semi's from them for pennies on the dollar.

It's one thing to be able to pick and choose your best driving opportunity given the weather and road conditions ... it's another thing entirely to trivialize them to the level of considering that it's prudent to do this commute because your daughter needs to go to dance lessons a few times a week during the winter months. I'll bet a parent that does a couple of these excursions in these types of inclement conditions will seriously question the validity of their choice to do this on a schedule.

Absent the times that I've stopped for seriously injured folks needing immediate transport to a medical facility, I, too ... don't stop for the idiots that have blown past me at high speed on the road in these driving conditions. Especially the ones that I had to take evasive action to avoid being hit by them as they were sliding all over the road passing me ... I'll stay to the far right, over by the shoulder strips and let 'em go, even slowing down for them if need be to get the separation. But when they lose it and are off the road, the most I'll stop for is to verify that they're OK ... and then let the pro's do their job.

FWIW, similar road conditions existed yesterday on I-25 by Larkspur, which is similar to the pass South of Cheyenne ... and there was a 34 car pile-up which shut I-25 down. There's a lot of folks out there who simply don't exercise much judgement when conditions get poor. Even if you're the world's greatest inclement conditions driver in a well prepared vehicle ... you're still on the road with these folk and dependent for your safe transit upon their skills and judgement, which isn't always up to snuff. At this rate, it's going to be a long winter.

Last edited by sunsprit; 11-16-2010 at 10:18 PM..
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Old 11-17-2010, 03:18 AM
 
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A 3AM update ... the front has now passed through to NE/KS, leaving almost no measureable snowfall on the ground in SE WY.

WYDOT has lifted the "no light trailer" ban on I-25 South of Cheyenne, but has posted a "black ice" advisory. At the current temps leading in to the AM commute, one can expect that condition to persist. Should make for an interesting drive along that stretch this AM for commuters.

Ah, a small correction to my prior post: I-80 was only closed from Cheyenne to Rawlins, and it remains so. That's still a significant chunk of Wyoming roads that are closed or in seriously poor condition.
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