The flood issue contact person for the University of Wyoming offers some advice as the state wallows in the calm before possible snowmelt-fed floods.
"The biggest thing to pay attention to is the weather," warns Ron Cunningham, Fremont County, Wyo., extension educator.
About two inches of rain in Lander, Wyo., in mid-May may serve as a preview of what farmers can expect. The snowpack in the Wind River basin hovered at about 160% of normal, looming as a source of heavy water to come.
Climate conditions in the Fremont County area are similar to those of 2010, when residents had to wrestle with floodwater from the Popo Agie and Wind rivers.
"What really caught us off guard last year is that it was real cool, then we got snow in the mountains," which is similar to what is happening this year, says Cunningham.
Wyoming's Extension Disaster Education Network (www.uwyo.edu/WYODISASTERHELP) offers information to help those facing floods. Click of Floods under Natural Disasters on the left-hand side of the web page.
Numbers from the UW Water Resources Data System, based on information from Natural Resources Conservation Service SNOTEL sites, show eye-opening percents-of-average of some Wyoming basins, ranging as high as 283% in the Upper Bear area.
SNOTEL is designed to help predict total water yield over the course of the runoff season, generally late spring through summer, explains Wyoming State Climatologist Steve Gray.
"Where the network is less effective – and it's not really designed to do this anyway – is for predicting what might happen over the shorter term," he explains.
"At the moment, we have lots of water sitting around in the lower elevations and in the higher elevations. So, it's this combination of snow and saturated soils down in the valleys/basins, plus the potential for high elevation runoff, that is contributing to such high flood risk."
Wyoming's high and low elevations have lots of snow looming above already-saturated soils.