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Flood sets record; rivers likely to rise several more days

Jun 9, 2017 From staff reports

Residents along the Riverton Valley Irrigation Canal have been asked to prepare for potential evacuations this weekend as area waterways reach historic flood levels.

Officials said the Wind River, which was had hit a record 11.93 feet mid-morning Friday at Riverton -- a record high -- was flowing into its old channel about 6 miles west of town, causing water to bypass the irrigation district's head gates and travel directly into the canal.

The Wind River is expected to continue rising through 6 a.m. Monday, when it could crest at 12.2 feet near Riverton.

Its previous record high at that spot was 11.8 feet set in July 2011.

Flooding of the Wind at Riverton begins at 9 feet.

Emergency messages from the National Weather Service warned residents to be alert to flooding in some unheard-of risk areas, including West Main where the RVID canal crosses under "high school hill," and residential areas downstream near Sunset Park, Sherry Drive and other spots near the canal, which is regulated by irrigation managers under normal conditions.

Prepare

Emergency management coordinator Kathi Metzler advised residents near the canal to move pumps, equipment and livestock away from the canal, as it is likely to overflow.

She also encouraged anyone who feels their home is in danger to evacuate the area.

"Due to the unpredictable nature of flooding, evacuation levels may progress quickly and without notice," she said in a press release Thursday. "It is better to evacuate early than to be dependent on a rescue situation."

Evacuation shelters are not open locally. Instead, residents are asked to stay with friends or in area hotels.

Others should stay out of the river and away from the water's edge.

"Flood waters can be fast and unpredictable," Metzler said. "Soil instability may cause rapid erosion."

Don't drive into flooded areas, either, she continued.

"It only takes a few inches of fast moving water to take you or your vehicle down river," Metzler said, adding, "Nationwide, flooding results in more weather related deaths than all other weather hazards combined."

Aid

Over the past few days, students from the Wind River Job Corps have been out sandbagging at St. Stephens, and off both Rendezvous and Goes in Lodge roads, hoping to save several homes that were at risk from the increasing water from the Little Wind River.

"We're trying to do as much as we can," welding student Josh Ashton said. "Pretty much all of the students on campus have volunteered to help."

The Little Wind near Riverton was at 9.73 feet mid-morning Friday and is forecast to hit 11 feet by 6 a.m. Sunday - its second-highest level on record.

The record level was set at 11.9 feet in June 2010. Flood stage there is 8 feet.

"At this time it is crucial if you are at a low lying area near an area river or stream to take the necessary action to protect yourselves and move yourself and important items to higher ground," National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Tim Troutman said.

The Red Cross of Wyoming helped two adults and one child find temporary lodging and other immediate needs after floods moved their mobile home off of its foundation Thursday on Goes In Lodge Road near St. Stephens, and the Associated Press reports that the state Office of Homeland Security has sent 16 people to Fremont County to fill sandbags for use by residents.

Popo Agie

High water levels in the Popo Agie River necessitated several temporary closures at Sinks Canyon State Park this week.

The Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River at Sinks Canyon was observed at 6.21 feet at noon Friday, not quite yet to its flood stage of 6.5 feet. However, the waterway is forecast to hit 7.25 feet early Monday. Moderate flooding occurs there at 7.5 feet.

As a result, tent camping sites next to the river in the Popo Agie Campground have been temporarily closed due to safety concerns, officials said in a press release, and the swinging bridge will be closed until further notice.

The remainder of Sinks Canyon State Park remains open and accessible.

Snow totals

Troutman said temperatures will warm into the low- to mid-70s above 9,000 feet through Friday, combining with "gusty" southwest winds blowing at 25-40 mph to result in rapid melting in the Wind River Mountains, where there still was plenty of snow to come down.

The snow depth at Togwotee Pass was 41 inches at the end of the day Thursday, translating to a snow-water equivalent of 19.5 inches.

At Hobbs Park above Lander there were 40 inches of snow Thursday for a SWE of 19 inches.

Above South Pass at Deer Park the snow measured 40 inches deep for a SWE of 21.3 inches, and at South Pass there were 24 inches of snow Thursday equating to a 10.8-inch SWE.

River levels

The Wind River near Dubois was at 5.55 feet at 11:15 a.m. Friday and is forecast to stay around 5.6 feet through Saturday before falling back down to its 5-foot flood stage. It will return to about 5.5 feet again Tuesday afternoon.

Near Crowheart the Wind River was at 10.11 feet at 11:15 a.m. Friday and is forecast to stay near that level through the weekend. Flood stage is 10 feet.

The Wind River below Diversion Dam at the U.S. Highway 26 bridge was last seen at 6.87 feet at 11:45 a.m. Friday. Flood stage there is 5.5 feet.

At Kinnear the Wind River was at 9.03 feet at noon Friday just above its 9-foot flood stage. It had crested at 9.66 feet overnight, however, and it will return to 9.7 feet overnight Saturday to Sunday. The record flood level there is 9.9 feet.

On the other side of the county, the Little Wind River at Fort Washakie had fallen to 4.76 feet at 12:15 p.m. Friday after cresting at 5.01 feet Thursday morning. Flood stage there is 4.5 feet.

The North Fork of the Popo Agie River at Gallinger Ranch had fallen to 5.17 feet at noon Friday, having crested at 5.72 feet early Thursday. Flood stage there is 5 feet.

The Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River near Lander hasn't hit flood stage yet. It had fallen to 4.26 feet at noon Friday from 4.95 feet earlier this week. Flood stage there is 5 feet.

The Little Popo Agie River above Hudson near Lander was at 5.65 feet at 11:30 a.m. Friday. Flood stage there is 5.5 feet.

The Sweetwater River near Sweetwater Station was 7.18 feet at 11:30 a.m. Friday. Food stage is 7 feet.

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With the snow-capped Wind River Mountains portending more flooding to come, Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper James Weck observed water pouring across U.S. Highway 26 about 20 miles west of Riverton. The road has been closed since Thursday. Photo by Claire Peart

With the snow-capped Wind River Mountains portending more flooding to come, Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper James Weck observed water pouring across U.S. Highway 26 about 20 miles west of Riverton. The road has been closed since Thursday. Photo by Claire Peart


With the snow-capped Wind River Mountains portending more flooding to come, Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper James Weck observed water pouring across U.S. Highway 26 about 20 miles west of Riverton. The road has been closed since Thursday. Photo by Claire Peart

With the snow-capped Wind River Mountains portending more flooding to come, Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper James Weck observed water pouring across U.S. Highway 26 about 20 miles west of Riverton. The road has been closed since Thursday. Photo by Claire Peart

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