Imagine how it would feel to be trapped all night in your truck in a mountain snowstorm, with a wind chill of 70 degrees below zero outside. That’s what happened to a Wyoming Department of Transportation plow driver last December.
He told his story recently, and says he’s ready to tackle this winter’s snowstorms and so is WYDOT.
The Chief Joseph Highway in the Beartooth mountains is a lonely place now. Snow covers the mountains around it as far as you can see. There are no houses here, for miles.
Last December, a huge winter storm dropped so much snow in Northwest Wyoming, plows had to pull plows out of the snow in Cody.
Two Wyoming Department of Transportation snowplows got stuck in snowdrifts on the Chief Joseph Highway one night. Eagle Recovery sent a tow truck to pull them out.
Tow Truck Operator Brian Bragg says another rig got stuck, “Winched Mike out, one snowplow operator. Got him out a couple of times. And the snow drifts were so bad ended up sliding him off the road.”
So Bragg and his boss chained up the big rig: the four wheel drive tow truck. They pulled the first tow truck driver back onto the road.
Then, Bragg says they drove up to find the stranded snowplow.
He said, “And there was another snowplow operator, Joe, and he was turned around in the middle of the road.”
WYDOT snow plow driver Joe Klein had been stuck on the Chief Joseph Highway, alone in his truck, for ten hours, after clearing the snow for a car that was stuck.
Klein explained, “And then I got stuck and couldn’t get out. Conditions got worst. They tried to send up another truck to help me, and he couldn’t. He only got about four miles from the bottom, and I was about 17 miles in.”
Klein said the weather radio reported a 70 below zero wind chill outside.
And he saw, “Big snowdrifts. Deep snow. Wind, visibility you couldn’t see.”
Yet, he says he wasn’t afraid. His truck heater kept him warm. He had radio contact.
He said, “Search and Rescue, or someone would have come. They wouldn’t have left me up there.”
Bragg finally pulled his snowplow out just before daylight, Then, Klein kept plowing.
Bragg said, “And then he came down and plowed back down the mountain, to where we were at, and made another pass back up the mountain.”
WYDOT has hundreds of miles to clear in Northwest Wyoming, and when the snow keeps coming down, they keep plowing.
WYDOT spokesman Cody Beers said this winter could be as bad as last year.
He pointed out a big winter storm hit this week, “We got a big start on it already, and our guys are out plowing roads.
And the snowplow boss said his men are ready for the 12 hour shifts, night and day, for the long winter ahead.
Cody Maintenance Foreman Jim Berry said, “Farmers’ Almanac might be right again this year. We might have another good one. But, we’re ready. We have all our equipment up, and we’re ready to go.”
Berry said his drivers wear heavy snow gear, and keep an emergency kit in the truck.
Klein said he had only two bottles of water with him when he was stranded on the mountain last year, so, he always takes a bag of food with him when he gets in his snowplow now.