Sublette County waters have risen substantially in the past two weeks. Last weekend, flooding began in earnest in the gas fields near the border of Sublette and Lincoln Counties. Roads were closed, and the water level was high enough to submerge a vehicle’s tires.
Farther north, the New Fork River continued to rise, threatening areas of Paradise Road in the Pinedale Anticline, although Rio Verde Engineer Mark Eatinger said crews are going to raise that section of the road as part of the ongoing construction anyway.
Throughout the county, if rivers and creeks haven’t breached their banks, they are close, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) forecasts the levels will continue to fluctuate.
NOAA measures water flow and levels on the Green River at the Warren Bridge, on Pine Creek above Fremont Lake, the New Fork River near Big Piney and on the Green River near LaBarge. LaBarge has been at the pre-flood action stage for at least a week as the others continue to flirt with that threshold.
Sublette County Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Mitchell said, as late as Wednesday, Prairie Creek near Daniel spilled over its banks.
Last week’s warm weather accelerated snowmelt in the surrounding mountains, adding to the flow of local waterways, although Mitchell said the occasional cooler days slowed the melt and gave the creeks and streams a chance to absorb some of the excess water. He said it’s those cooler days that have kept flooding in check and the water from reaching action stage.
Last weekend saw multiple calls to the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office for flooding, including from residences in Cora and Boulder. Mitchell said a private residence south of Paradise Road on the New Fork River was threatened, but the owners were able to staunch the flooding with their own equipment.
At Tuesday’s Sublette County Board of Commissioners meeting, County Road and Bridge Department Superintendent John “Butch” Penton said some of his crew spent the weekend filling and moving sandbags around the county and pulling trees out of rivers to ease blockage.
This week’s cooler weather and rain lowered the river levels at NOAA’s four Sublette County metering spots, bringing the New Fork River down from action stage and the LaBarge area down from flooding, although, as of Tuesday, there was still water running across some roads.
Both areas remain close to flood stage, but the Warren Bridge and Fremont Lake meters are measuring levels more than a foot below action stage, although Pine Creek above Fremont Lake was within inches over the weekend.
During the time of elevated flow, Sublette County was under a recreational flood warning issued by the National Weather Service and requested by the County Emergency Management Services. It advised the public to stay away from “dangerous and unpredictable currents of area creeks and rivers.” The warning remained in effect through today, and it warned the “creeks and rivers within the Upper Green River Basin will continue to flow at very high flows for the next couple of days.”
There were also flash flood warnings in effect earlier this week; heavy rain was expected but never materialized.
Mitchell said torrential rain could cause real problems, but even a small amount of rain could do damage.
“If we got any rain, it would flood,” he said. “There’s nowhere for the water to go.”
Rain and temperatures in the high 70s are forecasted through the weekend, but Mitchell also said a couple of days in the 80s or 90s could take the county’s waterways back to the levels of this past weekend.
“There’s still a lot of snow in the mountains, and we could see more snowmelt,” he said. “We’re not in the clear yet.”For the complete article see the 07-08-2011 issue.
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