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Fingers crossed as Wind River teeters near flood stage

May 30, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Fremont County Emergency Management officials will be monitoring local waterways for signs of flooding this weekend, when rain showers could send melted snow tumbling into the Wind River Basin near Dubois and Riverton.

"We should have the peak of (the snowmelt) in the next 48 hours," FCEM coordinator Kathi Metzler said Friday.

She was hopeful about the prospect: If the snow melts gradually over the weekend, Metzler said Fremont County could be on "the downward trend" when it comes to flooding in 2014.

"Unless someone throws us a good thunder cell in the wrong spot, we should actually be able to see the light at the far end of the tunnel," she said. "The only thing that could cause us some intense grief would be if one of the thunderstorms or rain showers ... actually gave us some good, solid rain."

Forecast

The National Weather Service forecast rain storms Friday afternoon and evening in the Wind River Basin.

In Riverton, the Wind River is expected to rise to around 9.5 feet late Friday into early Saturday, cresting near 10 feet late Saturday night into early Sunday morning. Water should recede slowly after that, fluctuating around 9 feet Sunday night through Monday morning.

At 10 feet, the Wind at Riverton begins to encroach on low-lying areas west of Wyoming Highway 789, according to the NWS.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation usually builds a sand levee along the highway near the south side of the Wind River, but the road remains open. Also at 10 feet, extensive agricultural flooding is likely to take place downstream of Riverton near the Black Bridge and Hidden Valley areas, where water begins to encroach on homes along the right bank.

Those areas also see flooding when the Wind reaches 9 feet, or flood stage. At that point, minor flooding usually is seen along both banks of the Wind River upstream of the Highway 789 bridge at Riverton.

Bank-full stage is at 8 feet for the Wind River at Riverton. At that point, minor flooding still may be seen downstream along the left bank of the river near Black Bridge.

In the Dubois area, the Wind River is expected to crest around 5.4 feet early Saturday morning, then recede to about 5 feet through Sunday afternoon.

At 5.5 feet, Dubois experiences intensified low-land flooding that can become more widespread in and around the mountain town. Flood stage is 5 feet and involves minor, low-level flooding in low-lying areas both upstream and downstream of Dubois. Bank-full is at 4.5 feet.

Cooler afternoon mountain temperatures are expected through early next week, when the Wind River will begin to slowly recede, according to the NWS. Residents and visitors are reminded not to drive through flooded areas; move to higher ground.

Friday

At about noon Friday, Metzler said some residents were experiencing minor, "almost nuisance," flooding in low-lying areas from Dubois to Riverton. A few of the impacted people have started taking steps to protect their properties, but Metzler said local government is not planning to provide sandbags at this point.

"We'll be protecting critical infrastructure," she said. "Basically that means we're monitoring mainly bridges, just so we don't get some debris of some flavor."

She has heard a few reports of debris threatening bridges this week, but no problems have emerged so far.

"It looks like, at this stage, when we get our peak it'll be less than the 2011 flood," Metzler said.

A few residents in flood-prone areas seemed to agree with her. Officials could be heard on police scanners Friday morning talking about one woman in a low-lying area who didn't express any concern for her home.

"She's getting ready to make coffee," Metzler said Friday to Undersheriff Ryan Lee. "She seems happy as a clam."

Lee seemed to agree that the woman was not in danger.

"We can get in there with the raft if we need to get her out," he responded.

Metzler said the Lander side of Fremont County has only seen high runoff, with no flooding currently.

-- Staff writer Eric Blom contributed to this report.

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