The Saratoga Sun -

Flood potential moderate to high

Riverside may be most affected


State and local emergency management officials from across the region planned for potential flooding this spring in central and southeast Wyoming.

State Hydrologist Jim Fahey, with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Riverton, educated county emergency management coordinators and state homeland security personnel about the current snowpack conditions across Wyoming. Fahey was on a conference call with the emergency management and Homeland Security officials, including Carbon County Emergency Management Coordinator John Zeiger.

Zeiger invited the Saratoga Sun to listen in on the conference call March 21 at Saratoga Town Hall.

For the Platte Valley area, Fahey said snowpack levels on the Upper North Platte River Basin are generally below the levels they were at three years ago — when there was significant flooding in the region — but still well above the average. However, a map provided by the NOAA, which showed predictions as of last month, indicated that moderate to high potential for spring flooding because of snowmelt is expected along the Encampment River near Encampment and Riverside, the North Platte River at Saratoga and the Little Snake River near Savery and Baggs.

Fahey said snowpack levels in northern Colorado are above 2011 levels, and that early indications suggest flooding is possible. He said the potential for flooding is greater in the town of Riverside than in other places in Carbon County, and mentioned the Encampment River Basin as a key high area.

“Looking at the snowpack, in Wyoming the snowpack is still trending less than 2011, but it is still above the average or median for the Wyoming area,” Fahey said. “However, the Colorado SNOTELS (Snowpack Telemetries) are showing numbers above2011 levels, and way above the median. The one basin that is really high, as it does compare to 2011, is the Encampment River Basin.”

Fahey said deep flows for flooding in Saratoga are influenced by the big tributaries of the North Platte, the Encampment River and Brush Creek, than they are by snow melt from northern Colorado. He said at this time it looks like Saratoga may avoid the two months of high water it experienced three years ago.

“I don’t expect as this time, we’re kinda early in the game as we know, I don’t expect flooding for such a long period as 2011,” he said. “I also don’t expect directed flows like 2011. High flows will stay up because of the flow coming in to Colorado, but I don’t see it as high as 2011.”

In the Little Snake River Valley, Fahey said Baggs and Savery are in much of the same position as Riverside. He said SNOTEL sites on drainages feeding the Little Snake River basin are above normal, but mostly below 2011 levels.

Fahey added that after touring the Baggs area recently, the Little Snake River Valley appears to have taken good measures to weather any high water issue this year.

“Looking at what’s going on in Baggs and then upstream, first of all, the NRCS has done a lot of restoration and reclamation efforts on the channel near Baggs,” Fahey said. “The channel may hold more water than we’ve seen since 2008, 2010 and 2011. Usually, the flood flow is 6,000 cubic feet per second, but it may hold 2,000 more than that.”

Rebecca Mazur, forecaster with the NOAA in Cheyenne, told the group on the conference call it is anyone’s prediction what the weather will be like a month or two from now.

“Frankly at this stage, I’m not really sure what could happen in the next couple of months,” she said. “Looks like we are under El Nino watch, but that typically would mean more warmer conditions for our area. At this stage, I’m not 100-percent sure if it could go either way, there’s just not a strong signal. I’m a little uncertain to what could happen, but no trends can really be assessed to whether we are going to see rapid snowmelt from above average temperatures.”


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