THE UPPER VALLEY – Sunday night’s wintery weather shut down roads, canceled school on Monday and has put Fremont County Search and Rescue on notice to take an elderly gentleman to a dialysis appointment.
Road closures or blockages involved the following: I-15, US 20, I-31, ID 32, ID 33, ID 47, and ID 87.
”Between Spruce Street (Ashton) and The Montana State Line (3 miles east of the Island Park area),” according to the Idaho Transportation Department website. “The road is closed. Look out for drifting snow on the roadway. Expect blowing snow.”
It also announced three winter storm warnings expected from now through Tuesday along Highway 20 with one between Hot Springs Road and Prairie Road. A second is expected between Fish Creek Reservoir Road and Blizzard Mountain Road. And the third area mentioned is between 1000 North Road and the Montana State line that’s three miles east of the Island Park area.
The snowy weather not only closed roads, but it also shuttered Fremont County, Madison County, Sugar Salem School, and Teton School Districts. It closed the following schools throughout southern Idaho: Aberdeen School District 58, Blackfoot School District 55, Bonneville Joint School District 93, Firth School District 59, Idaho Falls School District 91, Jefferson School District 251, Ririe School District 252, Shelley School District 60, Snake River School District 52, Sugar-Salem School District 322, West Jefferson School District 253, American Heritage Charter School, Alturas International Academy, Bingham Academy, Blackfoot Charter School, Blackfoot Head Start and Early Head Start, Cat and the Fiddle Preschool, Chief Targhee Elementary Academy, Hope Lutheran School, Idaho Falls Head Starts, and Early Head Starts, Idaho Science and Technology Charter School, Lighthouse Montessori School, Lillian Valley School, Monticello Montessori Public Charter School, Snake River Montessori School, Stevens-Henager College, Taylor’s Crossing Public Charter School, Teton View Montessori School, Watersprings School, White Pine Charter School, White Pine STEM Academy.
In Fremont County, Sheriff Len Humphries reported that drivers were ignoring road-closed signs and taking their chances.
”People are driving around ‘road closed’ signs and getting stuck,” he said. “They’ve been ticketed for going around. It’s an infraction. People don’t like to wait.”
Humphries also reported that along the highway at the Henry’s Lake outlet, travelers have become stranded and will continue to be until the road reopens.
”We haven’t had any issues that I’m aware of people not being able to find an accommodation,” he said.
Humphries reported that a dialysis center called the sheriff’s office Monday and asked for help in retrieving an 80-year-old Ashton man in need of daily dialysis. The hope was that Fremont County Search and Rescue could get the man to his medical appointment.
”We’re working on getting him out on snowmobiles or Snowcats,” Humphries said.
Humphries said that there are also some stranded truckers at the Highway 87/Highway 20 intersection.
”There’s a bunch of them,” he said. “If they don’t open the highway, we’ll probably ferry in some water and food for them.”
The National Weather Service expects more snow throughout the Upper Valley region this week.
Fremont County Search and Rescue official Eric Thomas reported that Island Park received 7.7 inches of precipitation while White Elephant now has 10.5 inches of snow with more falling.
Since Sunday morning, new snow amounts ranged from zero in Hyalite to 12 inches in the West Yellowstone Mountains. The Madison Range and Cooke City received three to six inches of snow. The Bridger Range received three inches, Thomas said.
The wind has also been an issue, Thomas said.
”Overnight south-southwest wind increased to 15-30 mph with gusts of 30-50 mph,” Thomas said. “By tomorrow morning 6-10 inches is possible near West Yellowstone and Cooke City with 2-4 inches elsewhere.”
Thomas said that Tuesday morning could possibly see six to 10 inches of snow near West Yellowstone. Since Sunday, the southern Madison Range received seven to 12 inches of snow. Winds have also created large snowdrifts.
”These drifts can easily be triggered and can break deeper and wider on sugary snow near the ground,” he said. “Even without wind-loading, the new snow is enough to create slabs that can avalanche and be large enough to bury or injure a person. Dangerous avalanche conditions exist and avalanche danger is considerable.”
Ashton, Tetonia, Driggs, Island Park, and Kilgor may expect several inches of snow through Tuesday afternoon.
”Travel will be difficult at times, especially outside of well-maintained travel corridors,” Thomas said. “Blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility and possibly cause road closures.”
Thomas urged drivers to travel with an extra flashlight, food, and water.
For more information on travel conditions, call 5-1-1.