Hurricane-force winds are nothing new for the small northern Wyoming community that saw wind speeds of up to 118 mph over the weekend.
While there is no hurricane season in Wyoming, there is the community of Clark about 30 miles north of Cody, where weekend winds equaled what is considered “major” hurricane wind speeds under the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
Just one week before this weekend’s 118 mph gust, a 95 mph wind gust was recorded there. Four weeks ago, winds of up to 100 mph caused – and then spurred on – a deadly wildfire that took the life of a Clark resident.“
This fall has been unusual for the number of high-wind days,” said Clark resident James Ingram. “It seems like days are either perfectly calm or steady 40 mph. Recently we’ve seen gusts up to 60 mph here at our house near the fish hatchery, but closer to the mountains they’ve been higher.”
Clark itself is not an incorporated Wyoming town, more of a gathering of residences with a church, a recreation center and an elementary school. Commuters who travel between Cody and Billings, Montana, can make the trip via Wyoming Highway 120 without even realizing that a community lies to the west.
But those same drivers learn quickly that the winds in that corridor can be dangerous – and Clark residents have become used to the steady, sometimes damaging winds.
“We try to hunker down on those days,” Ingram said, “but horses and ducks have to be fed! We’ve had no damage, but then we keep things put away or staked down. Clark residents plan that way.”
What Clark residents can’t plan for are wildfires fueled by the hurricane-force winds, like the one that took the life of Cindy Ruth in November.
The fire consumed 300 acres and destroyed at least eight buildings (including three homes), and was started Nov. 15 by high winds that took down a power line, which fell into a tree on Park County Road 1AB. The sparks lit the dry grass, and the 100 mph gusts moved the fire swiftly.
But the winds are a way of life, and many Clark residents have developed a sense of humor about it.
“I like to call those days ‘garbage pickup days’ when we send all surface trash to Kansas,” Ingram joked. “Keeps Clark looking clean as a whistle!”