Blizzard Road Barriers

Matthew with a road barrier in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming 30 November 2002 1024x768

One of the really neat things about driving across Western Plains states, such as Wyoming (Latin for "No State Here"), Colorado (Latin for "Red"), and Nebraska (Latin for "College Football"), is the prevalance of Department of Transportation road closure barriers (stopgates). Blizzard road barriers are a natural phenomenon that most people from the East coast have never seen and are ill-prepared to encounter. These gates, which look surprisingly and deceptively like the gates used to interrupt the flow of traffic at train grade crossings, are placed around the countryside at intersections notably lacking train tracks. The photograph to the left, taken by Bob Faber during our 2002 Thanksgiving vacation, shows me with a dark stopgate in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming.

Stopgate on US 14 in Wyoming 30 November 2002 1024x768
Stopgate in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming 30 November 2002 1024x768
I-80 Closed Sign at Sydney, NE 28 November 2001 640x480

Blizzard barriers allow the state Department of Transportation to close entire roads with the push of a button in the event of severe winter weather. When the the state's high velocity snow plows can no longer guarantee adequate snow removal during blizzard conditions, they can close the roads quickly.

I-80 road barrier near Cheyenne, Wyoming 21 November 2001 640x480
Snowplow near the continental divide at Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming May 1995 640x480

Activiating the road barriers is equivalent to closing the New York State Thruway, but Nebraska and Wyoming have much more road in the middle of nowhere and do not use salt for deicing on rural roads. The barriers serve an essential public safety function, providing a clear visible indication when roads have been closed by the state.

Wyoming Yellowstone / Tetons Road Barriers

I actually became obsessed with blizzard barriers and signs during my family's 1995 trip to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons National Park. Below are my first few pictures of these barriers.

Blizzard road barrier in Wyoming
Blizzard road barrier in Wyoming
Blizzard road barrier in Wyoming
Blizzard road barrier in Wyoming
Blizzard road barrier in Wyoming