After some hot, dry days that brought back painful reminders of the drought-impacted summer of 2012, a thunderstorm pounded through Powell Thursday afternoon. Once the lid was lifted on moisture, rain continued to fall on and off through Sunday.
NWS meteorologist Chuck Baker, of the Riverton office, said 1.78 inches of rain was reported over that four-day period at a location two miles south-southwest of Lovell.
An address four miles east-northeast of Powell reported 1.07 inches during that same period, Baker said, while another report of 1.04 inches came from four miles southwest of Powell. There also were two reports of two-thirds of an inch of rain in the area.
The run of wet weather was welcomed by farmers, whose crops are in the midst of the growing season, as well as people who enjoyed a break from heat. Baker said there’s a good chance more rain fell over those four days than in all of last summer.
“That could very well be,” he said. “Last year was a pretty extreme drought across the area.”
While the rain was welcomed by most and didn’t put too much of a damper on fireworks shows — the Powell show continued through a light rain Thursday night — there were some negative aspects to the soggy conditions.
Hail was reported in some spots, Baker said. Hailstones measuring .88 inches in diameter were found by Meeteetse, he said, and there was a report of three-quarters of an inch hail by Hot Springs.
Julie Thompson, who farms with her husband Steve four miles southwest of Powell, said a strong storm blew through the area around 5 p.m. Saturday. In addition to the rain, hail fell.
Their corn was damaged, she said, and many leaves were shredded. Their barley, beans and alfalfa crops also were impacted by the hail.
Axel Garcia y Garcia, an assistant professor and irrigation specialist at the University of Wyoming Research and Extension Center in Powell, said three-quarters of an inch of rain fell at the center.
However, Garcia y Garcia said hail damaged the corn, beans and sugar beets that are being grown there. The crops suffered 40 to 60 percent damage, he said.
“That’s pretty bad,” Garcia y Garcia said. “But I believe we are going to recover from that.”
Betsie Gettings, a Powell-based crop production assistant for American Farm Bureau Insurance Services, said the phone started ringing Monday morning from producers who wanted their crops assessed for hail impact.
“We are getting some reports of hail damage in the area,” Gettings said.
She had no idea how bad the damage was in area fields, and Garcia y Garcia said the hail appears to have fallen in some areas and passed over others. Gettings said an agent would be dispatched to farms to estimate the amount of damage.
Bill Metzler, a real estate broker who lives east of Garland, said heavy rain fell on both Thursday and Friday. After working outside in 97-degree heat on Wednesday, Metzler said the rain was a pleasant change.
“I think we got more rain on Thursday than we got all last year,” he said.
Metzler said he measured 3/4 inch of rain. Some small hail also fell, he said, but there was no indication of damage to the alfalfa that is being grown on land he owns.
Another potential problem is flash flooding caused by sudden downpours in areas ravaged by 2012 wildfires, according to the NWS.
“Fire-scarred lands will be prone to excessive runoff from heavy thunderstorm rains. The result could be dangerous flash flooding that happens quickly with very little, if any, advance warning,” according to a release. “The National Weather Service in Riverton is advising residents and recreationalists near fire scars to prepare early and be ready to move to safety should heavy rain occur.”
Fires can turn soils and forest litter into an almost pavement-like layer just below the surface, the service reports.
“Our biggest concern is that a brief burst of heavy rain could quickly cause flash flooding in these burned areas, and providing advance warning in that situation would be difficult,” said Chris Jones, warning coordination meteorologist at the NWS office in Riverton. “The response to the heavy rain is so quick that people will need to be prepared ahead of time.”
Jones added that residents in and near the burn areas need to have a planned, safe evacuation or escape route and an emergency supply kit.
These flash floods and debris flows are most likely during the first two years following a fire. The steepness of the terrain, the intensity and size of the fire, and the amount and duration of the rainfall are important factors in flooding within burn scars. Jones said that as little as one-half inch of rain in an hour can be enough to cause flash flooding or debris flows in the burned areas.
The Riverton National Weather Service office has developed a comprehensive website for five of the larger wildfires that occurred in 2012: Alpine Lake, Fontenelle, Gilead, Horsethief Canyon, and Sheep Herder Hill. Fact sheets, safety recommendations and drainage maps are available at weather.gov/riverton.