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EDITORIAL: Hot weather means flooding is likely in parts of Wyoming

The year 2017 isn’t one we’re likely to forget anytime soon, at least from a weather perspective. 

Now, after a snow-laden winter and a cool, wet spring, we seem to have skipped much of the warm spring weather and have gone straight into the heat of summer.

Powell saw 92-degree temperatures on Sunday, and more hot weather is expected later this week, even though summer is still three weeks away — at least, the calendar says it is. 

Unfortunately, the sudden heat-up is not a good scenario for snowmelt in the Big Horn Basin, and it’s even worse for our neighbors to the south in Fremont County. Mountain rivers and streams are raging all over western Wyoming and will continue to do so for weeks to come.

The North Fork of the Shoshone River, above Buffalo Bill Reservoir west of Cody, hovered around 6.5 feet over the weekend, a little below the “action stage” of 7 feet. The river was forecast to crest in the wee hours this (Tuesday) morning at 7.9 feet, barely below flood stage, defined as 8 feet, according to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.

Also above the reservoir, the South Fork of the Shoshone was predicted to crest early this morning at 8.8 feet, just below the 9-foot flood stage.

The Greybull River near Meeteetse rose to 6.9 feet around 1 a.m. Saturday, and almost as high again on Sunday and Monday, nearing the flood stage of 7.5 feet.

Medicine Lodge Creek near Hyattville was the first waterway in the Big Horn Mountains to spill over its banks, swelling to 3.65 feet Sunday night, a little above the 3.5 foot flood stage.

Near Riverton, the Little and Big Wind Rivers both went into the minor flood stage over the weekend and were predicted to continue rising through the week to hover between moderate and major flooding. West of Riverton, the river had already flooded its banks. 

The North Fork, Middle Fork and Little Popo Agie Rivers near Lander all reached the action stage over the weekend, with the North Fork hovering near the flood line. Flooding is predicted there over the next few weeks. 

The snow water equivalent in the Wind River Basin measured four times the median last week, much of that due to cool weather that delayed the snowmelt. There’s still a lot of water up there, and it eventually will find its way down those rivers.

Additional flooding is expected in the southwest part of the state as temperatures rise there.

We’re thankful the weather forecast for Monday and today (Tuesday) cooled down a bit, into the 70s. However, a return to the high 80s and low 90s is predicted for Wednesday through Friday. 

We hope the weather takes a more moderate track to avoid severe flooding here and in other places in Wyoming. 

However, the water is welcome. It provides moisture for forests, helping trees stay healthy. It improves grazing for wildlife and domestic animals, and it assures there will be plenty of water for irrigation through the hot summer months. 

We hope it also means fewer forest fires and less smoke in the air during the late summer and fall. That would be an additional bonus.

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