By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Flooding caused by a breached irrigation canal inundated Lingle on Friday, forcing its evacuation as Gov. Mark Gordon called out the Wyoming National Guard to help with the situation.
Water from the breached Pathfinder Canal north and west of Lingle reached the community Friday afternoon, less than 12 hours after the breach occurred Friday morning.
The flooding forced the evacuation of the community and the closure of U.S. Highway 26.
Gordon activated the National Guard to help with work to stem the floodwaters.
“At my request, Secretary of State Buchanan is on the ground to personally survey the scope of the damage and to ascertain what resources are needed to help the citizens of Goshen County,” he said in a news release. “Secretary Buchanan has reported the local folks are working together to sandbag the canal. As I have said many times before, I am proud of our Wyoming people who do what they do best: helping neighbors.”
Staff from the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, the State Engineer’s Office and county officials immediately traveled to the site to assess the situation after the breach was announced.
Water had been diverted from the canal at the Whalen Diversion Dam to reduce floodwaters inundating Lingle. Gordon’s office said on Friday that floodwater levels would begin receding around 2 p.m. on Friday. However, water was expected to continue flowing for the next 12 hours, as the canal was full prior to diversion.
Goshen County Fire Warden Bill Law told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that the breach occurred just before 6 a.m.
“It’s probably gonna take another six hours or so to stop the water from reaching [Lingle],” Law said. “We are doing a lot of sandbagging, we’re bringing in dirt and firming up every area that we can.”
Around 600 inmates from the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution were helping to fill bags of sand to ward off any additional flood damage.
Local law enforcement, fire and emergency crews were working to control traffic and assist community members with the flooding. Law noted that emergency responders from Laramie County have also joined in to help.
“Manpower is what’s needed right now,” Law said.
The fire warden said a small number of people were told to leave their homes due to the flooding. They are now being housed at a Lingle church.
While the flooding incident on Friday was a rare event, Law said it was not the first time this has happened. Around three to four years ago, the same canal breached, but it only caused a handful of people to leave home.
“Not since the Lusk episode a good number of years ago has our county or area had to evacuate,” Law said.
A flash flood in June 2015 left downtown Lusk inundated with water and led to a collapsed bridge and damage to some homes.