John Lawson is the Wyoming Area Manager for the Great Plains Region of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
His office manages the North Platte River Basin’s reservoirs and dams as the river winds through Wyoming and into Nebraska.
Lawson says the scene for the current flooding was set early this year.
“We started getting a snow pack building way above average early on, even as early as February and it continued on until we finally got to record heights of snow pack,” he says.
Snow pack refers to the amount of water contained in the snow, and while the bureau’s records on snow pack only date back to the early 1980s, Lawson says people have been measuring river flows for much longer.
He says, “We are forecasting inflows into our reservoir system that you would have to go back to somewhere around 1917 to find the kind of flows that we’re talking about and that we’re predicting that we’re going to get over the next 30 to 45 days.”
Lawson says, as of this week, the record snow pack hasn’t melted much.
“We’re about 327% above average with regard to water content in the snow,” Lawson says. “We are dealing with a very unusual situation. Actually, it’s a situation we have no records of to judge by.”
Lawson says the bureau has been releasing water from reservoirs upstream from Nebraska in anticipation of the melting snow. Those releases have consequently filled the North Platte River Basin.
The North Platte River at the Wyoming/Nebraska state line sits three-quarters of a foot above its five-and-a-half foot flood stage.
As you travel downstream through Nebraska, the river is right at flood stage in the Lisco area, just over a half-a-foot above flood stage in the Lewellen area, more than a foot-and-a-half over flood stage in the North Platte area, and more than a half-of-a-foot above flood stage in the Brady area.
Josh Mackey, KOGA, Ogallala