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Good snowpack ushers in possible spring flooding

A student builds a fire on the snow during the winter survival class that took place Feb. 22-23 at the Northwest College Field Station off the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. A student builds a fire on the snow during the winter survival class that took place Feb. 22-23 at the Northwest College Field Station off the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. Photo courtesy Northwest College

The snowpack is looking good around the state, but beware of potential spring flooding.

The Shoshone basin snow water equivalent or SWE, was 156 percent of the 30-year average Monday, up from 147 percent one week ago. The Big Horn basin SWE was at 153 percent on that date, up from 147 percent one week previously. Those figures are according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The statewide SWE average is 136 percent. No SWE sites in the state are below normal. The highest is the Upper Green River basin at 169 percent and the lowest is the Madison basin at 103 percent. One year ago the statewide average was 85 percent.

“We are probably doing the best of any state in the West right now,” said Lee Hackleman, water supply specialist for the NRCS office in Casper.

That’s good news and bad news.

Moderate flooding is forecast on the North Fork of the Shoshone River near Wapiti, according to Jim Fahey, Wyoming National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hydrologist in Riverton.

A moderate to high potential for flooding from snowmelt is expected across various headwater streams along the Powder River drainage as well as along eastern portions of the Big Horn Basin. Streams with the highest potential for flooding include the Middle Fork of the Powder River near Kaycee, Medicine Lodge and Ten Sleep creeks near Ten Sleep and Clear Creek near Buffalo, Fahey said.

A moderate to high potential for flooding due to snowmelt is also expected across the Encampment River near Encampment and Riverside.

A moderate potential for flooding associated with snowmelt is also forecasted along the Wind River near Riverton, the North Platte River at Saratoga and the Little Snake River near Baggs. All other headwater basins across Wyoming can expect a generally low potential for flooding due to springtime snowmelt, Fahey said.

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