Jun 6, 2015

Park County roads generally holding up to wet weather; other counties not so lucky

Despite facing its share of rainy weather, Park County continues to fare better than much of the state, which has been grappling with high water.

To the knowledge of Park County Homeland Security Coordinator Mart Knapp, only one county residence has been flooded in this wet spring. Knapp said a Cody home at the bottom of the Sheridan Avenue hill had “water up to the doorknob” in May’s massive hail/rain storm and “the Red Cross put them up for a couple days in a hotel until the mess got cleaned up.”

Park County Engineer Brian Edwards said Friday evening that only two county roads are currently closed because of recent weather, and both are fairly remote.

The blue stars show the general areas of the two closed roads in Park County.
One is Road 3SL, a “lightly traveled road” northeast of Meeteetse that's been flooded and undercut by the Lower Greybull River, Edwards said. It accesses about a dozen homes off of Road 3LE (which connects Meeteetse and Burlington) and is about roughly 10 miles east of Wyo. Highway 120, Edwards said. The homeowners have another way to access their properties and county crews “are waiting for the water levels to fall before making any repairs,” he said.

Sliding earth has also closed the upper portion of the Monument Hill Road (Road 7UH) north of Cody, with a part of the road beyond the gate "pretty much wiped out," Edwards said. He figures it will take until early July for the area to dry out enough for road and bridge crews to restore access to the recreational area.

A mudslide recently closed the very end of the South Fork Highway, near the Deer Creek Trailhead, but county crews got that cleaned out about a week ago, Edwards said.

“We’re chasing stuff around,” he said of erosion and sliding around the county's roads, but added, “Nothing that’s impacting a lot of people, that kind of thing.”

A massive amount of rain led to the collapse of this overpass in Lusk. Photo courtesy Wyoming Highway Patrol
It's been a different story in places like Lusk, where floodwaters have damaged homes, a bridge and roads.

The American Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at the Niobrara County Fairgrounds on Thursday to aid victims of the flooding.

(Capping a bad week of PR for the Red Cross, the non-profit's initial press release announcing the shelter described it as being located in “Lutz, CO.” The Red Cross sent a corrected release for Lusk, WY a few minutes later.)

Gov. Matt Mead visited Lusk on Thursday and on Friday, he issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency for the flooding across the state. The order directs the Office of Homeland Security and the Wyoming Army National Guard to take all necessary steps to aid citizens in affected areas.

“I am very concerned about the weather-related damage across Wyoming and the toll it is taking on our citizens and communities,” Mead said in a Friday evening news release. “Mudslides have closed some roads in Sunlight Basin near Cody, Wind River Canyon and Togwotee Pass and flooding has caused damage in Niobrara, Johnson and other counties. We are doing all we can to be at the ready to help city and county authorities.”

Wet conditions have cracked the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway (Wyo. Highway 120), but it remains open. Photo courtesy Michael Stroble/Wyoming Department of Transportation
Contrary to Mead's statement, mudslides have not actually closed roads in Sunlight Basin.

The quote was apparently referring to road damage on the Chief Joseph Highway. Wet conditions have caused the ground beneath the highway near Northwest College's A.L. Mickelson Field Station to slide. That, in turn, has made the roadway crack and sink by as much as half-a-foot. The Wyoming Department of Transportation has reduced the speed limit in the area and blocked off part of the road while working on a permanent fix, but the highway has remained open.


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