Last week’s snow storm wreaked havoc on state and federal highways in Teton County, as well as on Wyoming Department of Transportation crews.
Western Wyoming was hit hard with moisture after a long dry spell, creating a weak facet of snow with upside down conditions. This, with the combination of very strong westerly winds made for an exceptional avalanche cycle that produced 16 major avalanche events in the Jackson area. Over 20 bank slides of various sizes were observed on Teton Pass, in some cases, pushing 20 feet of snow or more over the roadway.
The storm and avalanche cycle began the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 and quickly forced WYDOT officials to close the road earlier than scheduled, for avalanche control and snow maintenance.
WYO 22, Teton Pass, was closed that evening at 7 p.m. and remained closed until the following day until around 11 a.m. The pass remained open throughout the day and then closed again on Jan. 19, 2012. It remained closed for the following two days for avalanche reduction work and snow maintenance on the roadways. Teton Pass, WYO 22, reopened on Jan. 21, 2012 at 2 p.m. One avalanche area, Surprise Slide, had not initiated an avalanche since 1987.
Teton Pass was not the only highway to see closures due to avalanche issues in Teton County. US 191, in Hoback Canyon, experienced closures throughout the week as well. US 191 closed on Jan. 19, 2012, for a few hours in the night due to an avalanche event and then closed again for maintenance on Jan. 21-22.
WYDOT crews worked continuously to reduce the slide threat with controlled avalanche reduction work and snow removal and maintenance in order to preserve public safety on WYO 22 and US 191.
“The Jackson crews are experienced and an exceptional group of snow commanders,” District Maintenance Engineer Tory Thomas said. “They do great work.”
Storm totals for the five day event show an accumulation of 4 ft of new snow and 5.4” of snow water equivalent.
WYDOT would like to remind the public that roadways and highways can be closed with limited notice due to deteriorating weather and avalanche conditions, especially in the Teton County area.