Buried in snow and freezing temps so far this winter

Bill Sniffin

Buried in snow, and enduring freezing temperatures 

Between hurricanes and blizzards, this has been a winter to remember for retirees Jerry and Cassie Venters of Lander. 

Normally, they head to their condo on Sanibel Island off the Florida coast and never worry about cold weather or even winter-style clothes. 

But Hurricane Ian pretty much destroyed Sanibel, and the Venters found themselves spending winter in Lander for the first time
in years. 

No problem. Winters over the past three years have been warm and open. No snow. No harsh freezes. 

But this year? Yikes. 

“Thank God for Walmart and thrift stores,” Cassie said, as she and her husband had to outfit themselves in a hurry. Because they expected to be gone every winter, they had donated all their winter clothes and other
cold-weather gear. 

But first, let’s go back
to September. 

Hurricane Ian was the
deadliest hurricane in Florida since 1935, killing 146 people in the Sunshine State this year. It was Category 4 and moved slowly wreaking incredible havoc. In its way was the beautiful Sanibel Island, home of the Venters’ annual winter retreat. The condo was damaged so badly there was no way they could spend their winter there.

Thus, it was time to “cowboy up,” and for the Venters to spend their first winter in Wyoming. 

“Originally, pre-Hurricane Ian, we would have gone to Florida sometime early November and stayed at our condo on Sanibel,” Cassie said. “Florida winter weather can be beautiful 50s and 60s with low humidity, in December/January, but quickly starts warming up in February and with the warmth comes humidity. We love the dry Wyoming summers here and are finding the dry winters don’t feel as cold as the humid winters of Missouri, where we used
to live.” 

Lander is unique in Wyoming because it gets so little wind. Back in the 1960s, it was ranked one of the 10 least windy places in the United State. But with the lack of wind comes snow — lots of snow. And cold — bitter cold. 

Our first decade in Wyoming saw the brutal winters of 1972-73 when 216 inches of snow fell, and 1978-79 when the mercury spent most of winter below zero — really! In recent years, those kinds of winters have gone away. Global warming or not, residents have appreciated the dry winters and the warm

But not this year. 

Just before Christmas the mercury dipped to -39, which was the coldest in 20 years. This was on top of a snowfall that was between 14 and 18 inches, depending on what side of town you lived on.

Then just before New Year’s most of Wyoming got hit with a big winter storm. But Lander got 27 inches. Yes, more than two feet. And then it just snowed another six inches this past week. 

It is a winter wonderland. It is white as far as the eye can see in all directions. And some folks are worried about spring flooding, since normally most of our snow comes in March and April.  

The reason Lander gets so little wind is that it sits below the towering Wind River Mountains. There are more than 44 places in Fremont County over 13,000 feet. All that wind just blows over
the town. 

As a small plane pilot for 30 years, I can personally tell horror stories of trying to land an airplane where you are tossed around like a leaf until you get about 500 feet above town, and, suddenly,
everything is just fine.

So now that Cassie and Jerry have been enduring their first legitimate Lander winter, what other observations can they make?

They love the images of the black Angus cattle against all that snow. But they do not like the fact that pellets for their stove were being rationed. 

Driving the streets can be a challenge because of the ruts. The Lander Street Department does a pretty good job clearing snow, but it is still awful because of the Chinook winds that came and melted a bunch of it after Christmas before the next big blizzard. 

So that summarized what we have endured in Lander. How about other parts of
the state? 


Bill Sniffin is a retired newspaper publisher who has penned a number of books about Wyoming. Check out additional columns written by Bill at www.billsniffin.com, and find volumes from his coffee table book series, which have sold over 30,000 copies, for sale at the News Letter Journal.



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