Snowmelt-swollen rivers plague Wyoming, Colorado
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Rain and a spring heat wave that is quickly melting mountain snowpack have sent rivers rising in west-central Wyoming to record or near-record levels, washing out small bridges and flooding some homes. No casualties have been reported.
About 100 members of the Wyoming National Guard have been deployed to evacuate people and help bag sand in Fremont County, which Gov. Dave Freudenthal has declared a disaster area. Some 86,000 sandbags have been distributed and another 220,000 are on order.
“We are anticipating that the floodwaters will continue to rise in various rivers throughout the county over the course of the next couple of days,” 2nd Lt. Christian Venhuizen of the Wyoming guard said Tuesday in a telephone interview from Lander, where the guard set up a command post.
Minor flooding was also occurring Tuesday in northwest and south-central Wyoming.
People also were keeping a nervous eye on rising rivers in Colorado, where the high water prompted some rafting companies to halt guided trips. An Aspen, Colo., man rafting in the swollen Eagle River drowned over the weekend.
In Estes Park, Colo., a northern Colorado town near Rocky Mountain National Park, some 500 sandbags were handed out Monday to hold back the rising Big Thompson River.
There were reports of roads and bridges being damaged in eastern Oregon, as well as minor flooding along the Snake River in eastern Washington and north-central Idaho and the Yellowstone in south-central Montana.
Meantime, cooler temperatures reduced flooding risks in Utah’s Salt Lake County where water was subsiding in swollen creeks.
The rivers in Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Washington and Oregon are churning with water from a rapid snowmelt caused by a sudden rise warming. Temperatures in Denver topped 90 degrees Monday. Rain has exacerbated the situation in many places.
“If we were to get 2 to 3 inches of rain every day, this would be what our rivers would look like, but since we live in Wyoming we don’t get 2 to 3 inches of rain every day,” Venhuizen said. “The normal flow in our rivers are a lot lower.”
Venhuizen, who is the public information officer for the Fremont County flooding, said he didn’t have specific details on the number of people forced from their homes or damage caused to homes, businesses, roads or bridges.
The Red Cross has set up a shelter in Lander, which is about 240 northwest of Cheyenne, but so far no one has used it, he said.
“There is flood damage; to what extent I can’t say,” Venhuizen said.
In addition, Venhuizen said he was not aware of anyone needing to be rescued from floodwaters.
“With the debris and current, we strongly recommend no one go in the river for any reason,” he said.