How concerned should we be about flooding in Teton County? The short answer is that flooding happens here, and it can be damaging. Teton County has experienced seasonal flooding, flash floods, flooding due to ice jams, and flooding after a natural dam failure that destroyed the town of Kelly in 1927.
The potential for seasonal flooding in spring and early summer has two major phases. This year, valley snowpack has already disappeared and with it most of the risk of lowland and nuisance flooding. Now, as temperatures warm and mid- to high-elevation snow melt accelerates, we look at the potential for stream and riverine flooding. This type of flooding can also be triggered by notable precipitation events like rain-on-snow. It is further influenced by water table levels, soil saturation, and other factors.
Given the numerous variables involved in hydrologic forecasting, it can be difficult to pinpoint the location, timing, and magnitude of flooding. In addition, surprise flooding caused by overflowing, poorly maintained, or damaged irrigation ditches or dams can happen at any time. Since flooding can occur anywhere, and with little to no warning, everyone should know how to stay safe if they encounter flood waters.
- Never drive or walk into flood waters. Just six inches of moving water can knock over an adult and two feet of water can carry away most vehicles. Water may be deeper than it appears and can hide hazards such as sharp objects, washed out road surfaces, electrical wires, and chemicals. Remember: Turn Around Don’t Drown.
- Keep away from downed power lines and any other electrical wires. Do not enter any room if water covers the electrical outlets or if cords are submerged.
- Get to higher ground. Know the fastest way to get to higher ground near your home, school, workplace, or anywhere else you spend a lot of time.
- Protect your property beforehand. Flood damages are not typically covered in most homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies. Understand your risk and learn more about flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (www.floodsmart.gov/) or by visiting the Wyoming Department of Insurance online (https://doi.wyo.gov/) or calling 1-800-438-5768.
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