Now that the snow is gone from Wyoming highways, here come the landslides.
And as usual, the most likely spots for slurry to cascade over the road are the highway through the Wind River Canyon between Thermopolis and Shoshone, and U.S. Highway 14/16/20 east of Yellowstone’s East Gate.
East Gate Road Blocked
A landside Tuesday night blocked Highway 14/16/20 about 2-3 miles east of Yellowstone’s East Gate, according to the Wyoming Department of Transportation. As of early Wednesday, one lane of the road had been reopened and flaggers were guiding drivers thought the site.
It was hoped the mess could be cleaned up and both lanes reopened by late Wednesday, WYDOT reported.
Meanwhile, WYDOT crews were cleaning up an “older, existing landslide that continues to move material” near U.S. Highway 20/Wyoming Highway 789 near Boysen Dam in the Wind River Canyon, agency spokesman Cody Beers told Cowboy State Daily.
There was no word of road blockage there.
Landslides are expected in the spring and early summer, and Wyoming Department of Transportation crews take them in stride, agency spokeswoman Jordan Achs told Cowboy State Daily.
“WYDOT crews around the state spend time every spring monitoring for flooding, landslides, rockfall and other potential hazards, often using heavy equipment to clear debris from culverts, bridges and other structures,” she said.
It’s too early to determine if things will be worse this year because of massive winter snowfall, but Beers said rain and runoff from melting snow causes many highway landslides.
The landslide near the East Gate “was caused by runoff, rainfall this week and heavy, wet soils, and gravity,” he said.
Now’s the time of year to perhaps factor landslide delays into Wyoming travel plans, Beers added.
“We generally have landslides in the spring during the time of freeze-thaw — nighttime temperatures below freezing and daytime temperatures above freezing,” he said. “Hate to say it, but it's fairly routine to have rockfall events and slides during the spring. We sometimes also see these landslides in the summer after large rains.”
If and when more landsides hit, they’re likely to be in those two usual trouble spots, Beers said.
“We respond to a number of rockfall/landslide events in Wind River Canyon and near the East Gate of Yellowstone,” he said. “These are places where man has created a road through a canyon, etc. These are places where weather can be very active with heavy, deep snow and heavy rainfall.”
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.