Springtime in Wyoming – Water Along the Rockies

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Bill Sniffin
Bill Sniffin

The first time I heard the Wyoming term “mud season” it conjured up images of the sloppy dirt roads that I had to drive on growing up in the Midwest far country a long time ago.

But here in the Cowboy State, mud season means the sloppy mess you get when snow and ice freezes and the sun comes out and warms it all up.  Then it melts and freezes again and warms up and then melts again for what seems like an eternity.

Some places are more muddy than others.

Cheyenne and Laramie are not so muddy.  Lander, Riverton, Worland, Buffalo and Sheridan are because they get so much more snow.  Jackson can be a muddy mess sometimes, as can Pinedale and Afton.

Booming places like Rock Springs, Rawlins, Gillette and Douglas can also have lots of mud due to construction.

No matter, springtime in the Rockies is a crapshoot when it comes to weather.

I like to say that Wyoming has three normal seasons, summer, fall and winter.  Spring is another story. If a season could be schizophrenic it would be Wyoming’s spring. Sometimes it can be like an early summer.  Sometimes it can just be a continuance of winter. And more often than not, it is a hybrid season full of mud and occasional rains and, this year, massive ice flows in some rivers.
Since I am a whiney old guy, I recall how the winter of 2009-2010 was one for the record books.  But it still might not be as odd as this one.

That winter started early and ended long.  This year has been the same with four major snowstorms hitting Lander early, starting in September and blanketing us in October.  Trees were especially hit hard by those wet snows.

One wag referred to Wyoming’s four seasons as Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter and Summer. Under that description Spring is Still Winter. It has been like that this year.

And while we are focused on our own weather here in Wyoming, the rest of the country has really been blasted, especially the northeast and the southeast.

And we experienced an amazing drop of the thermometer to just five degrees during a quick trip to Dallas, Texas to escape the cold.  Yikes. We talked to some folks in even farther south Houston, which was buried by an ice storm during that same early March event.

Meanwhile, some amazing things were happening in Wyoming’s Big Horn River in mid-March with ice blocking the river and causing flooding in Greybull and Worland.

Spectacular video has been shot from a drone of the Big Horn River in both towns that you can find on YouTube. The videos were shot by Brandon Yule and are amazing.  

Pat Schmidt of Thermopolis who grew up in Greybull has some history of the current high water and stories of previous springtime flooding:

“Hopefully the dike will save Greybull this year as it did twice when I lived there in the late 1950s and early 1960s,” said Schmidt. “The town council was being criticized for spending the money to have the Army Corps of Engineers build the dike, and then they had the last laugh as the dike saved the town the very next year.

“This is much smaller ice this year than the two floods I recall, which had blocks of ice room-sized and bigger. I recall a cow standing on one huge chunk of ice as it floated into town from the south.”

Schmidt also recalled crews were pushing junk cars into the southernmost corner of the dike where the river enters town, trying to fill the gouges made by the icebergs. “It was like watching a modern car crusher at work!

“Also, Morris Avery and Mel Christler were helicoptering over the ice jams north of Greybull, using dynamite to get the river flowing. The jams started at the canyon through Sheep Mountain several miles north and backed up around the bentonite plant first.

“The problems those years were caused by heavy rains melting deep snow in the mountains and hills, mostly from the Greybull River starting above Meeteetse.

“That river was a mile wide in some places and we were using tractors to get people's possessions out of farm houses. Several of us drove the tractors back and forth through the water where that river was flowing over Highway 310, which was due to the ice blocking the bridge just south of Greybull.”

Ah, spring. You gotta love these strange occurrences on Wyoming’s calendar each year.

 

 

Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at www.billsniffin.com.  He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent book is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at www.wyomingwonders.com.
 

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