- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Crews continued stacking sandbags to protect the town of Saratoga from the rising flows in the North Platte River on Tuesday as weekend rains on top of heavy mountain snows prompted state officials to monitor sites around the state for possible flooding.

Saratoga Mayor John Zeiger, who also serves as Carbon County’s emergency management coordinator, said Tuesday that flows on the North Platte through town appeared to be as high as they were during heavy flooding in 2011.

Information from the National Weather Service showed the river flow at Saratoga rose two feet from Thursday morning to Tuesday morning, bringing the level well into moderate flood stage. The agency predicts that it could creep higher throughout this week, possibly entering major flood stage by the weekend.

Saratoga and the surrounding mountain ranges received heavy rain over the weekend, Zeiger said. That rain fell on top of heavy mountain snows that remain much above average for this time of year.

Saratoga residents are thankful for the work that crews have done so far, Zeiger said.

“We’re trying to do the best we can,” he said. “You can try to fight mother nature, but it’s all up to her what’s going to happen.”

Lee Hackleman, water supply specialist with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service in Casper, issued a report Tuesday saying that snowpack statewide is far above average. The statewide snowpack, measured in snow-water equivalent, was 182 percent of average on Tuesday, compared with 54 percent last year.

“We have a lot more snow left in the mountains this year than last year at this time,” Hackleman said.

While water management agencies say there’s ample room in reservoirs along the North Platte to handle this year’s expected runoff, that doesn’t help towns such as Saratoga, which are upstream from major reservoirs.

An inmate crew from Newcastle and workers with the National Guard started sandbagging in several areas of town over the weekend, Zeiger said.

“They’re now going and reinforcing some of the work they’ve already done because the water has come up high enough they’re concerned that in the first go-round that they didn’t build high enough,” Zeiger said. “So they will be building the sandbag wall higher in some areas. They still have other areas that they haven’t been able to hit. We’re going to get them on that as soon as possible.”

Kelly Ruiz, public information officer with the state’s Office of Homeland Security, said Tuesday that the state had sent out 48 guard members to respond to flooding. About half were in Saratoga, while the other half were working in the Woods Landing area, on the other side of the Snowy Range on the Laramie River, she said.

The state also had dispatched teams to monitor flooding potential in Big Horn and Washakie counties, Ruiz said.

“They’re the liaisons between the local officials and the state level, to gather information and assist the counties as needed,” Ruiz said of the monitoring teams. “Right now, we’re keeping our eyes and our ears on the ground, watching the National Weather Service forecast, the forecast river levels and trying to determine areas of priority and resources needed to mitigate flood damage.”

Albany County officials issued a statement saying the Little Laramie and Big Laramie rivers are running high and some Woods Landing residents have been asked to consider moving to higher ground. Volunteer fire departments have been given sand and sandbags to help residents protect their homes.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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