It’s raining — it’s pouring

Posted 5/26/11

The rain stopped well before noon Wednesday, and the weather cleared, but the wet weather may not be over.

The National Weather Service office in Riverton forecasts the arrival of another cold front moving into the area Thursday (today) and a …

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It’s raining — it’s pouring


No cats and dogs fell from the sky over Powell this week, but a lot of water sure did.

The clouds dropped 0.88 inches of precipitation on the University of Wyoming Research and Extension Center north of Powell Tuesday, on top of a little more than 0.66 inches that fell on Monday. The two-day total — 1.56 inches — is more than the average rainfall recorded at the station for the entire month of May.

The rain stopped well before noon Wednesday, and the weather cleared, but the wet weather may not be over.

The National Weather Service office in Riverton forecasts the arrival of another cold front moving into the area Thursday (today) and a larger system moving during the weekend. Wednesday morning the Weather Service was warning of a spring snow storm in Idaho. The pattern continues over the Pacific Ocean, and so far, no sign of change is apparent.

The rain has increased inflows into local reservoirs in recent days, just as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was working to reduce storage in preparation for the spring snow-melt, which is just getting underway. Inflow into Buffalo Bill Reservoir, which had been less than 3,000 cubic feet per second most of last week, increased to nearly 3,900 cfs on Monday, then climbed to just over 6,000 cfs on Tuesday. The reservoir level, which had been dropping since early May, began to rise.

The problem is even worse at Big Horn Lake, where the Bureau has been forced to reduce releases due to flooding along the Big Horn River in Montana. As a result, the National Park Service reported Wednesday morning that the lake level had risen more than 10 feet in the past 24 hours, damaging a marina and a park boat.

Tuesday, average inflow into Big Horn Lake was 14,647 cfs, while outflow was averaging 4,253 cfs.

Serious flooding has been reported in Montana along the Big Horn and Little Big Horn Rivers. The 60-mile stretch of Interstate 90 from Hardin to the Wyoming line reopened Wednesday after being closed for days. Officials will be able to get supplies to the community of Lodge Grass, Mont., which had been cut off and where people had been running low on food, water and fuel. The closure isolated several towns, including Crow Agency, Lame Deer, Fort Smith and St. Xavier. Flooding at Joliet also closed the highway between Red Lodge and Rockvale for a time Wednesday morning.

And Montana authorities recovered the body of a second victim of floodwaters.

Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said a man’s body was found downstream of where 47-year-old Clint Stovall disappeared Sunday while moving equipment near Pryor Creek. The sheriff said a positive identification was expected Wednesday, but authorities are presuming it is Stovall’s body because he is the only one missing in the area. An elderly Boyd woman drowned earlier when floodwaters swept her from her driveway.

Around Wyoming, snowpack remains above average, and high water is expected in many areas around the state. Flood warnings were in effect Wednesday for Sheridan and Crook counties, northwest Lincoln County and along the Sweetwater River in southern Fremont County. A flood watch was in effect Wednesday for southwest Carbon County, and flood advisories had been issued for Hot Springs and Johnson counties.

Farmers struggle with stormy weather

Already delayed by cold, wet spring weather, local grower Fred Hopkin is struggling to prepare his ground for dry beans.

“We’re going to have to change some of our cultural processes to get the crops in,” he said. He hasn’t been able to corrugate most of his bean ground in the Penrose area east of Powell but is planning to plant as soon as he can anyway. He’s gotten only an inch or so of gentle rain the past few days.

“Anybody that got a hard, pounding rain, that’s going to lead to a crust” and could make it hard for seedling plants to push through, he said.

The ground is “not as level as we’d like,” but “I think we’ll still have our beans in by the fifth of June,” Hopkin said. Usually he pre-irrigates, but there’s so much moisture in the soil he might not have to this year.

“We’re trying to use it to our advantage,” he said. “I think we can do that.”

He’s planted about half his sunflower crop, but soil temperatures are still pretty cold, he said. He had planned to irrigate his sunflowers, too, but now thinks he’ll “just let them come up with the moisture.”

Like most growers, he craves the sun.

“It’d be nice to see a few 70s,” he said.

Delfino Juarez watched water back up into some of his barley fields Monday night, but he believes it drained quickly enough to avoid damage. North of town was hit harder than his home just south of Powell, he said. His farm along Road 10 between Lane 7 and Lane 8 is in relatively good shape, but he doesn’t like this unusual weather pattern.

“It’s the first time we see it raining and raining,” he said. “Usually it rains and then it stops.”

Juarez started planting dry beans May 18-19, but rain forced him out of the field before he made much progress, and it hasn’t let up enough to allow him to resume planting.

“If it stops raining now, we might be OK,” he said. “We just hope it stops so we can keep going. At least we’ve got a chance,” although his beans likely will be planted later than usual.

Wednesday’s sun made him a little hopeful, although the forecast still calls for rain over the next few days. He’s worried about thunderstorms developing, which could drop a lot of rain in a short time.

Even on Monday, “I thought we were going to be OK (to plant), and then we saw that cloud coming north,” Juarez said.

He doesn’t need to irrigate for some time, he said. “We’ve got plenty of moisture right now.”

Richard Redd, regional manager for Riverland Ag Corp., was unavailable for comment by press time Wednesday. Recently, however, he said his company’s barley and oat crops were doing fine.

Redd said planting was “a little bit behind our normal schedule, but not bad” because of the rains that fell earlier this spring.

Spring planting in barley-growing areas in northern Montana and the Dakotas was even farther behind, Redd said.

The cool, wet weather is good for barley to a point, “but we do need some heat,” he said.