Truckers stranded in Casper as storm closes roads

Long haul trucker Naceur Chamakh, left, talks with fellow trucker David Ramos in the parking lot of the Flying J Travel Plaza on Thursday, March 14, in Casper. Dozens of trucks were forced to park around Casper after all major roads around Casper and much of central Wyoming were closed by a winter storm. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Long haul trucker and Chicago native Naceur Chamakh spent Wednesday night sleeping in his cab in a Burger King parking lot.

On Thursday morning, he feverishly tried to get his rig to move as its tires spun on ice that had formed overnight.

“It’s a tough morning,” said Chamakh.

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It’s a feeling dozens of truck drivers were feeling as they sat idle around the Flying J Travel Plaza on Casper’s east side.

A severe winter storm that intensified on Wednesday closed nearly all major roads around central Wyoming.

Towns with major truck traffic, such as Casper and particularly Cheyenne, become makeshift campgrounds as roads closed.

Chamakh said early Wednesday started fine, with beautiful weather in Colorado. By the time he made it to Capser on his journey to California, roads had closed around him.

Randall Cummings of Clear Lake, Minnesota, started in Gillette yesterday morning. As he headed south on I-25, conditions started to change.

“It snowed harder and harder and the roads continued to get worse and worse,” said Cummings.

He left I-25 and headed towards Hwy 220. “By the time I got there the sign said ‘road closed,’ so I turned around and came back here.”

Cummings says it’s all part of the job. “It happens probably every other year,” he said. “It’s just part of life.”

Another driver, who only gave his name as “John,” watched satellite television in the front of his cab parked at the neighboring Burger King on Thursday morning as he waited for word on the roads.

“I don’t figure I’m gonna get out of here until tomorrow morning,” said John, who was heading to Washington. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Flying J manager Paul Fleet was busy working the registers early Thursday, just hours after finishing his previous shift past midnight.

“When the roads are closed there’s not much you can do, except try to make them comfortable,” said Fleet.

In the Flying J’s parking lot Naceur Chamakh was trying to enlist help from fellow trucker David Ramos.

Ramos was doubtful he could help Chamakh move, but in reality there was no where to go until the roads opened.

“I need to go to Minnesota from here, and they’re getting hammered,” he said.

As of early Thursday afternoon, the majority of I-25 was still closed in both directions.

Update: WYDOT said I-25 was expected to reopen around 4 p.m. and WY 220 to open around 4:30 p.m.