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Falling rocks hamper canyon travel; storm closes U.S. 20

Falling rocks hamper canyon travel; storm closes U.S. 20

Apr 28, 2017 - From staff reports

Increased moisture is causing more rocks to fall in Wind River Canyon.

The highway through the canyon was still closed Friday morning as a new snowstorm arrived, and officials say human safety concerns may lead to more closurex if rocks continue to fall.

Wyoming Department of Transportation personnel in Thermopolis were dispatched to Wind River Canyon about noon Wednesday when a house-sized boulder and other debris fell to the U.S. Highway 20/Wyoming Highway 789 roadway.

"There are quite a few big ones that have fallen in that one area, about 13 miles south of Thermopolis," WYDOT maintenance engineer Lyle Lamb of Basin said. "We would appreciate it if people don't stop and look around. It's not nice there.

"We have built a berm in the Windy Curve area to try to keep any new rocks from entering the roadway."

WYDOT is moving dynamic message signs to the area in case of the need to close the highway through Wind River Canyon during the continued rainy and snowy weather. That's what happened Friday morning.

"If it gets too western ... we're going to pull out of there and close the road," Lamb said. "It could become a safety issue for travelers and our personnel."

Staff continues to monitor the area. WYDOT geologists assessed the stability of the canyon walls Thursday.

The geologists discovered a slope fill area below the highway south of Thermopolis.

"We will keep monitoring this area, hoping it doesn't take the road," Lamb said.

He encouraged motorists to slow down through the canyon and watch for falling rocks.

Wilson Bros. Construction of Cowley already had been working in the canyon on a rock removal project, still addressing the flooding and mud slides of Memorial Day weekend two years ago.

WYDOT officials met with Wilson Brothers on Wednesday, and the contractor has agreed to help WYDOT clean up this week's rock slides over the coming weeks, once weather permits.

"Neither WYDOT nor the contractor will remove any of the rocks until things are safer, and it will most likely take a couple of weeks of work to complete," Lamb said.

Up-to-the-minute road conditions are available online at wyoroad.infoor via telephone at 511.

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