LIVINGSTON - Sounds of frustration were heard all over town Friday as residents struggled to clear the growing number of snowdrifts on sidewalks, driveways and city streets created by a two-day ground blizzard.
Starting Wednesday night, Livingston's famous wind hooked up with the roughly 18 inches of snow that had fallen in the past week and wreaked havoc with holiday travelers, commuters, truck drivers and city snowplow crews.
"As soon as we go out and plow it, the snow blows right back in," Sandy Wulf, Livingston's assistant public works director, said Friday. "The hills have been way worse than anything else. We plow them and then they just slam shut again."
By the time people woke up on Thursday morning, the National Weather Service had issued a blizzard warning that, after several extensions, was set to expire at 5 o'clock this morning.
Wind speeds ranged from 35 mph to 50 mph, with gusts exceeding 65 mph at times.
Many Park County roads near Livingston were simply closed due to blowing and drifting snow, according to the NWS. And the Montana Department of Transportation closed Interstate 90 for seven miles, from exit 330 to exit 337, rerouting interstate travelers along Park Street through town for two days running.
The extra traffic through town didn't help, Wulf said.
But Park Street was actually in good shape compared to the side streets, where deep snowdrifts clogged intersections, trapped parked cars and created perilous driving conditions.
Residents' frustration was exacerbated by the fact that, after digging out, anyone who rested for a few hours often found themselves faced with the same problem all over again.
As Wulf said, "If the wind would quit, we'd catch up."
The city crews were trying to get to some of the side streets, she said.
When the snow first started falling, the city focused on keeping "the emergency and school bus routes open, and the street to the hospital."
But as it kept coming down, just that basic maintenance turned into a round-the-clock operation.
"Four days ago the guys started working, six of them at a time, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Then another crew would come on from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. And basically they have not stopped for the past four days," she said. "We have every piece of equipment out there that we have -- two loaders, the sanding trucks and all six of our dump trucks, which have plows on the front of them."
Garbage pickup was impossible on Friday because the alleys were covered with deep snowdrifts.
And the wind was expected to continue through at least Friday night.
"County officials report significant blowing and drifting snow continues to create hazardous travel conditions in the Livingston vicinity, with visibility dropping below a quarter-mile at times," the NWS warned Friday evening. "Travelers are urged to use extreme caution. Visibilities will become poor with whiteout conditions at times. Those venturing outdoors may become lost or disoriented, so persons in the warning area are advised to stay indoors."
That's not an option for the city plowing crews, however. They're still out there.
"We are trying as hard as we can," Wulf said. "They are not stopping at night. As people call with serious problems, we're trying our best to get over there and get it cleared. But as soon as we go out, the snow blows right back in. And then on top of it, the highway is closed, so they're coming through town.
"Maybe if it gets above 32 degrees and we get the slushy stuff, then the wind won't blow it around so much," she said. "We're just asking people to please be patient."
Karin Ronnow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org