Wyo. Water Year: Snow Pack, Late Spring Cool Temps, Flooding

Photo of the tragedy that killed four when a Colorado Springs family's car went into a section of washed out highway in the Medicine Bow National Forest in July. (NOAA photo)
Photo of the tragedy that killed four when a Colorado Springs family's car went into a section of washed out highway in the Medicine Bow National Forest in July. (NOAA photo)

The Water Year 2011 Hydrologic Summary from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office in Riverton was released this week, and Wyoming saw a record water year in 2011 which included heavy flooding across the state.

Heavy snowpack that began in November of 2010, followed by cool temperatures that lasted into late spring of this year caused flooding into July.

Warm, windy nights during runoff months, along with rainfall on snowpack contributed to the flooding, the NOAA report says.

Dave Coleman warned residents about the high running water in Big Goose back in June.

Both Johnson and Sheridan counties applied for FEMA grants to mitigate flood damage and were awarded $4,927 and $31,000 respectively.

A tragedy during a flash flood in July along Brush Creek in southern Wyoming on July 19th took the lives of a mother and her three children from Colorado Springs. Their car (pictured above) went into a 25-foot section of washed-out roadway in the Medicine Bow National Forest and the only survivor of the crash was the father.

Historic snowpack levels also contributed to flooding in the Big Horns. The report reads: "Record spring snowpack along the Big Horn Basin (mainly along the west slopes of the Big Horn Mountains) and near record snowpack along the Shoshone Basin. There was widespread moderate to major flooding along many headwater streams and creeks that flowed out of the western slopes of the Big Horn Mountains. Shell Creek near Shell crested to near 4,800 cfs---which shattered the previous flow record of 3,000 cfs that was set back in 1945."

As far as for this year, the month of November saw less snow than it did last year, but the report says that it is too early to make sound predictions on next year's runoff. November saw normal-to-above-normal snowfall in the basins across the state.

"Bottom line is a lot can happen in the next few months with snowpack trends---but so far, this water year is not even comparing to the exceptional water year that we had last year," says the report.

The first snowpack report for the Bighorns is usually released early in February.

Eye Care of the Big Horns
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