Historic Flood Levels Prompt Preliminary Evacuation Notice in Fremont County
A number of Fremont County residents are being told to be ready for potential evacuations in light of historic flood and river levels.
The Fremont County Emergency Management Agency issued a flood evacuation notice at 6 p.m. Thursday for property owners along the Riverton Valley Irrigation Canal.
It's a "Level 1" notice, which means residents should "be ready" for a potential evacuation. It's the first step in a three-tiered evacuation plan.
A "Level 2" notice to "be set" tells residents to prepare to leave at a moment's notice, and a "Level 3" notice means residents should leave immediately due to present or imminent danger. As of Thursday night, only a "Level 1" notice is in effect.
According to the notice, the Big Wind River is flowing into old river channels some 6.5 miles west of Riverton. As a result, the river is bypassing the irrigation district's head gates and flowing directly into the Riverton Valley Irrigation District Canal.
Residents along the canal are being told to move pumps, equipment and livestock away from the canal, which is likely to overflow. The Big Wind River is expected to crest Monday morning.
As of 3:15 p.m. Thursday, the Big Wind River level was at 11.93 feet, topping the previous record of 11.8 feet set in 2011.
The river is expected to hit 12.2 feet early Monday, over three feet above the Riverton flood stage of nine feet, according to the Riverton office of the National Weather Service.
Authorities emphasize that evacuation levels may progress quickly and without notice due to the unpredictable nature of flooding.
Residents who feel their home is in danger are advised to evacuate early, rather than depend on a rescue situation after the fact. An evacuation shelter has not been opened as of 6 p.m. Thursday.
People should stay out of the water and keep away from the water's edge, as unstable soil may cause rapid erosion. In other parts of the state, portions of riverbank have fallen away, taking sections of roadway with them in several cases.
It only takes a few inches of fast-moving water to carry a person of vehicle away. As such, authorities urge people to not drive into flooded areas. Flood waters can move rapidly and be unpredictable.
Across the country, flooding causes more weather-related deaths than all other weather hazards combined.