Heavy snow, wreckage hamper reopening of Wyoming interstate a day after massive pileup

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Truck drivers head toward Cheyenne, Wyo., in limited visibility at mile marker 373 on Interstate 80 Thursday, April 16, 2015, in eastern Laramie County, Wyo. Heavy snow is being blamed for several pileups involving some 60 cars and trucks on Interstate 80 west of Cheyenne. A 50-mile section of I-80 between Cheyenne and Laramie was closed while the accidents were cleared. (Blaine McCartney/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP)


This Thursday, April 16, 2015 photo released by the Wyoming Highway Patrol shows a vehicle pileup west of Cheyenne, Wyo. The Wyoming Highway Patrol reports some 40 to 60 vehicles involved in crashes west of Cheyenne on both sides of the highway. No fatalities have been reported but there are some injuries. (Duane Ellis/Wyoming Highway Patrol via AP)


This Thursday, April 16, 2015 photo released by the Wyoming Highway Patrol shows a vehicle pileup west of Cheyenne, Wyo. The Wyoming Highway Patrol reports some 40 to 60 vehicles involved in crashes west of Cheyenne on both sides of the highway. No fatalities have been reported but there are some injuries. (Duane Ellis/Wyoming Highway Patrol via AP)


Scott Adkins shields his face from the wind and snow as he makes his way down Capitol Avenue on Thursday, April 16, 2015, in downtown Cheyenne, Wyo. The National Weather Service posted winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories for southeast Wyoming. Up to a foot of snow was possible in the surrounding mountains. (Blaine McCartney/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP)


CHEYENNE, Wyoming — The interstate highway between Cheyenne and Laramie will likely remain closed until 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."

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 National Weather Service predicted the storm to continue into Saturday.

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.

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