Elk Mountain and snow fence along I-80

Elk Mountain and snow fence along I-80

ELK MOUNTAIN, adjacent to Wyoming's Interstate 80, is a massive 11,000-foot mountain that dominates the area and strangely affects the local weather.  By its unique location and elevation, the mountain generates strong local winds and snowy blizzards that play havoc during the winter. So when the new Interstate highway was completed in the fall of 1970, motorists found that winter travel was treacherous due to the incredible "horizontal" wind-driven snow that blew across the road making it unsafe for travelers.

Snow fences

Snow fences

Icy patches

Icy patches

To fix the problem, highway engineers built fences to trap the drifts so the snow and ice wouldn't blow and collect on the roadway surface. During the spring thaw, it's strange to see green grass everywhere, except at the fenceline where snow remains a big icy glob until the summer sun does its work. Despite these measures it's a fact that the most frequently closed section of Interstate 80 across the country is here at 7,700 feet above sea level, competing with Donner Pass for that dubius distinction.

All precipitation or snow that falls here runs off to the North Platte River, so I've truly crossed the Divide. And on a personal note, I'm finally entering territory I've never been before, so new adventures are about to begin...

 

Winter snows on Elk Mountain

Winter snows on Elk Mountain

 

Week 15,  Miles 1140

Posted
AuthorRich Monroe