Flooding starts; worse through weekJun 6, 2017 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer
Hot temperatures Wednesday and Thursday could bring peak flows as heavy snowpack melts rapidly in the mountains.
Fremont County residents have been preparing for months for the flooding that hit the area this weekend.
Emergency management officials on Tuesday said no one has had to be evacuated despite the water levels, which are expected to remain high through the coming weekend as snow continues to melt off of the Wind River Mountains.
Weather experts are forecasting temperatures could reach 80 degrees Tuesday in the Wind River Basin, translating to the low- to mid-60s at higher elevations.
The weather will be warmer in the week, hitting the mid-90s in the basin and about 75 degrees in the mountains.
By Saturday and Sunday the temperatures are predicted to cool to the 70s and 80s in the basin and 50s and 60s in the mountains.
By the weekend, "snow melt will continue but not be as pronounced," National Weather Service meteorologist Tim Troutman said in an e-mail.
On Tuesday morning the Wind River at Riverton was measured at 10.88 feet, well above its 9-foot flood stage. It is forecast to crest at 11.5 feet early Saturday, not quite hitting its historic record of 11.8 feet set in July 2011.
The Little Wind River near Riverton also was above flood stage (8 feet) by mid-morning Tuesday, when it was measured at 8.56 feet. Troutman said the waterway will continue to rise, possibly cresting at 9.6 feet Saturday morning and remaining "nearly steady" through the weekend.
West of Riverton, the Wind River at Kinnear was observed at just above flood stage (9 feet) Tuesday morning. Troutman said it would slowly rise, cresting at 9.6 feet by Thursday - not quite as high as the 9.9 feet it reached in July 2011.
The Wind River is high below Diversion Dam at the U.S. Highway 26 bridge, too. The river at that location was measured at 7.03 feet mid-morning Tuesday; flood stage is 5.5 feet.
Above the dam at Crowheart, the Wind River was slightly below flood stage (10 feet) Monday, but Troutman forecasts a rise to 10.5 feet by Thursday. Witnesses said the increased streamflow in the Wind River has eroded a significant chunk of Burris-Lenore Road, a tribal road that runs parallel to the river's south bank near Crowheart.
The erosion also has begun to jeopardize Wilderness Road, which is county maintained and runs along the north bank.Dave Pendleton, Fremont County's transportation superintendent, said his crews have been on scene in recent days, reinforcing the north bank with rocks along a 300-foot section that will divert water away from Wilderness Road.
In the northern portion of Fremont County, the Wind River near Dubois was one-third of a foot above flood stage (5 feet) Tuesday morning.
Troutman said it would slowly rise to about 5.6 feet there - similar to its record crest of 5.65 feet set in 2011 - and remain nearly steady through Friday.
Hudson is experiencing high water as well, with the Little Popo Agie River near Lander hitting flood stage (5.5 feet) Tuesday morning. Emergency officials said the town was well prepared for the event, though, with barriers in place and sandbags being filled.
The Little Popo Agie will crest Saturday at 6.3 feet, Troutman said.
Water levels already are impacting Lander City Park, officials said, even though the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River hasn't yet hit flood stage (5 feet). It was measured at 4.25 feet mid-morning Tuesday.
The Middle Fork of the Popo Agie was higher at Sinks Canyon above Lander, but it also hadn't hit flood stage yet (6.5 feet), measuring 5.74 feet Tuesday morning. The NWS said that river would rise above flood stage overnight Thursday to Friday.
North of Lander at Gallinger Ranch the North Fork of the Popo Agie River was last observed at 5.09 feet mid-morning Tuesday, slightly above its 5-foot flood stage.
At Fort Washakie, the little Wind River had exceeded flood stage (4.5 feet). It was observed at 4.61 feet mid-morning Tuesday, and Troutman said it will remain above flood stage through the weekend.
In southern Fremont County the Sweetwater River near Sweetwater Station was 6.89 feet deep Tuesday morning, approaching its 7-foot flood stage. Troutman believes it will crest at about 8 feet by Sunday.
The flooding has taken its toll on fauna along riverbanks: Trees swept up by the currents have gotten stuck on bridges in Dubois and on the Sweetwater River near Jeffrey City.
Some had worried that the snowpack would bring down big quantities of silt and ash from the Lava Mountain Fire area, but Shoshone National Forest district ranger Rick Metzger said that has not happened so far.
'Not a playground'
Fremont County undersheriff Ryan Lee warned people not to try to swim or raft in area rivers for the time being.
"That's completely unsafe to do at this time given the flows, the depths and the obstructions," he said. "We urge people to stay away from the waterways and unstable river banks."
He noted that people could get stuck in the debris floating downstream, which can easily pop a raft, or they could be pulled under area bridges by the strong flows.
"Some water levels are approaching the bottoms of the bridges, and if you're in the river on a raft and you come to the bridge there's no way to stop and turn around," he said. "It'll suck you right under. ... It's not a playground - it's dangerous this time of year."
He said deputies will be patrolling spots that are popular for rafting, adding that several people have already attempted to enter the water