By Ernie Over, WyoToday

With the record snowfall across Fremont County, preparations have begun in the event of potential flooding this spring. On February 7, Fremont County commissioners approved their 2023 sandbag policy (see below) and on March 9 the county’s Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) heard an update on flooding potential. 

Fremont County Emergency Management Coordinator Milan Vinich presented last week’s report to the LEPC, with data provided by the Riverton Office of the National Weather Service (NWS). Vinich said he was contacted by Sheriff Ryan Lee last month who expressed concern over potential flooding this year, especially in irrigation ditches and canals as runoff begins. Vinich noted that in the 2017 flood in the county, with a lesser snowpack than this year, the runoff filled ditches and he said the drainage canal along Honor Farm Road resembled a river. There was one fatality in that event.  

After contacting the NWS office, Vinich said of primary concern this spring is the area around Riverton. The NWS said the snowpack on the third bench from the Wind River above Riverton (Griffey Hill) contains 15 inches of snow with a water content of three inches. That’s three times the amount of water than from the 2017 flood. “If we are lucky, the temperatures will stay cooler and there will be a slow release of water,” Vinich said. The snowmelt could be faster if conditions known as snow ripening occur. That happens when the top level of the snow is frozen while the underlaying areas are warmer. Thus the snowpack “ripens” and can release water much faster. “That results in a quick shift to melting,” said NWS Meteorologist Brett McDonald in an interview with WyoTodayMedia. He noted that if the area’s daytime temperatures range from 40 to 50 degrees that would promote a quicker snowmelt, “especially with strong sunshine, wind and or rain and warmer temperatures overnight.”

Vinich said the Emergency Management Agency is monitoring the weather. He also noted that a supply of sandbags has already been delivered to the Wyoming Honor Farm where they will be filled and available for emergency use by FCEMA. 

Fremont County’s 2023 

Sandbag Policy

1.) Sandbags will be available during normal business hours at the Fremont County Road and Bridge Shops, in Riverton at 4430 Airport Road from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and in Lander at 1580 Highway 287 from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 

The following information must be obtained from the person receiving the sandbags

• Name

• Address

• Contact phone number

• Number of bags taken

• Address where the sandbags will be used. 

2.) Those needing sandbags must provide their own sand or fill material.

3.) No county equipment will be used to protect private property. Only critical infrastructure property of the county will be protected by county equipment. 

4.) Sandbag filling instructions may be given to anyone requesting sandbags. 

5.) Disposal of used sandbags will be the sole responsibility of the individuals using said sandbags.

6.) During surface flooding, no more than 200 sandbags  unfilled will be given to one address at a time with a maximum of 500.

7.) During an actual flood event, no more than 1,000 unfilled sandbags will be given to one address, 500 at a time.