WYDOT's Winter Research Services
WYDOT is unique among the state DOTs in that it has a group dedicated to winter research and the study of blowing snow. Winter Research Services (WRS) team was created in 2004 to carry on the work of Dr. Ronald Tabler. Dr. Tabler spent more than 40 years researching blowing snow in Wyoming, and in many other locations, and is known worldwide as the "Blizzard Wizard." He is one of the founding fathers of snow fence research and design and his work has led to the reduction of winter crashes and as such, the saving of countless lives.
The work performed by WRS employees keeps them busy all yearlong. During the winter, team members are out in the snowstorms in their specially equipped truck. They collect video and audio data as well as pavement and ambient temperatures. This data, along with the data collected from the six portable weather stations WRS manages, helps in making recommendations such as snow fence placement, earthwork design and maintenance operations. The team also stays abreast of the latest in winter maintenance technology and provides guidance to other department programs.
Benefits of snow fences
The origins of snow fence are in Scandinavia where the first written recorded use was in Norway in 1852. Farmers would use the collected melt water from the snow fence drifts to water their livestock. The railroad in their westward expansion most likely brought snow fence usage to the states.
Today, farmers, ranchers and most forms of transportation use some form of snow fence. Snow fence benefits range from protecting the traveling public to creating stock ponds. Livestock and wildlife shelter around snow fences all yearlong.
In the winter, the fences provide a wind block, and in the summer they can provide shade. Vegetation flourishes with the extra moisture provided by the stored snow. In the high desert climate that comprises a good portion of Wyoming, the extra moisture gathered by snow fences can have a big impact on feed grasses and tree growth.
On Wyoming's roadways, snow fences help by reducing drifting snow and icing on the pavement surface. Snow fences improve visibility and have been proven to reduce the number of winter crashes. They also help by reducing maintenance costs and wear and tear on equipment.