With snow drifts rising as high as 4 feet at spots along the Beartooth Highway, it quickly became apparent to Wyoming Highway Patrol that a plow would be needed to rescue a driver trapped in snow in his SUV vehicle at milepost 32 early Saturday morning, about 3.5 miles south of the Montana border.
“The vehicle was hung up in the snow with all four tires entrenched,” said Lt. Lee Pence of the WHP Cody office.
After initiating the help of a private plow contractor from Cooke City to reach the driver, responders finally found the vehicle at 5:14 a.m. on U.S. 212. It took the plow driver and trooper nearly 40 minutes of hand shoveling and pushing before they could free the SUV.
“(The driver) said he was pleasantly surprised,” Pence said. “He didn’t think troopers would come until noon.”
By 5:52 a.m. the driver was out.
Pence said the stuck driver was unharmed from the incident and had stayed warm in the car. After the driver called a friend to come rescue them, that friend had to turn around because of the snowy conditions.
It was around 12:30 that morning Highway Patrol had received the original call about a stranded motorist.
A trooper briefly attempted to reach the stranded victim by car.
“Because of the drifts and icy road conditions it became obvious we would need help,” he said.
Plowing a path for the Highway Patrol squad car that followed behind, the rescue effort was finally able to commence around sunrise, although sun was lacking in the conditions that more resembled January than June.
“It was blizzard conditions in spots but other areas were clear,” Pence said. “It was cold.”
He said the call came from the wife of the stranded driver, who the driver had managed to get a hold of, despite limited cell-phone service.
Highway Patrol did not identify the man involved, but said he is a North Dakota resident.
“He said he had left North Dakota in 90 degree weather and didn’t expect this,” Pence said.
He said if the plow option had not been available or had not worked, Park County Search and Rescue would have been called into rescue the victim.
Beartooth Highway was open at the time the driver became stuck but closed at the state line later that day at 7:30 a.m. It did not reopen until 9:54 a.m. Wednesday.
Highway Patrol recommends always packing extra clothes and food when travelling in the mountains.
“Although the calendar shows June, conditions can quickly change in Wyoming, especially in the mountains,” Sgt. Jeremy Beck wrote in a release. “It’s important to always be prepared in case you become stranded, in hot or cold weather. Make sure you have enough fuel and provisions to survive.”