Weather wreaks havoc

Alexis Barker, News Edtior

Photo by Walter Sprague/NLJ

About 60 feet of the rock retaining wall near the grandstand at the Weston County Fairgrounds has fallen, according to Weston County Fair Board member Billy Jackson, after heavy rain that has plagued the county in recent weeks. With the fair on the horizon, Jackson said his biggest concern is making the area look presentable, and that the wall problem is not affecting fair events. “I recommend we clean it up and make it look good, and as soon as fair is done, we do the retaining wall completely,” he said. He also noted that there are concerns with a pole and electrical wiring that will need to be addressed. 


Weather has done its fair share of damage in Weston County recently, with Weston County Road and Bridge reporting damage to several county roads in the past month. Weston County Emergency Management and the National Weather Service also confirmed that damage was done locally courtesy of the tornado that hit the North Antelope Rochelle Mine on June 23. 


“We did observe some damage east of Rochelle/Clareton area and recently got a picture from a storm chaser, so we know one was in Weston County. We don’t know how far the tornado was on the ground — we’re hoping to be able to view satellite data to see if it took out enough vegetation to show the track,” said Susan Sanders, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Rapid City. “The damage included roofing material torn off a house, metal corral panels blown down and a tree blown down.” 


Several other storms have blown through the area in recent weeks. Those storms featured hail, heavy rain and strong winds, according to alerts issued by the National Weather Service. 


Sanders reported that June brought 4.5 inches of rain to Newcastle, well above the normal 2.68 inches.


According to Gilbert Nelson, the local emergency management coordinator, some of these storms brought far more rain to areas surrounding Newcastle. He noted that one storm dumped roughly 4 inches of rain on one side of Wyoming Highway 450. 


This heavy rainfall, Nelson said, has caused damage to several county roads in the form of washouts. Damaged roads spread across the county and include Thorton and Materi near Upton and the Cheyenne River Road. 

“A section of the Cheyenne River Road, there is basically no gravel left. I thought I was going to get stuck,” Nelson said. “Another section, a quarter of the road is gone; it just fell off.” 


He noted, though, that all roads are passable. 


“I can’t imagine the amount of gravel they (Weston County Road and Bridge) are going through this year because of the rain,” Nelson said. “There are washouts everywhere.” 


Ed Wagoner, chairman of the Board of Weston County Commissioners, reported on July 5 that Jim Hansen, the county’s road and bridge superintendent, would not be attending the meeting because of the large amount of work being done on county roads because of the storms. 


Hansen later told the News Letter Journal that while the damage hasn’t been significant, it has been time-consuming to fix because the damage is spread across the county. 


In addition to road damage, Nelson said, there have been some flood warnings up north, light flash flooding in Newcastle and at least one flash flood watch issued. Despite these warnings, he said, he has not heard of any problems relating to flooding to-date, although he noted the presence of a significant amount of standing water in areas. 


Nelson said that some areas cannot take much more water and that once the vegetation dries out, there is a fire concern. 


Weston County Fire Warden Daniel Tysdal expressed the same concern. 


“Once that lush grass dries out and cures for the season, those fuels suddenly become available to burn. It appears the forecast is calling for warmer temperatures than we’ve been experiencing the past several weeks and with that, the herbaceous fuels will transition as well,” Tysdal said. “Our wildland fire season often extends into mid to late fall, so as summertime activities are underway, we’d urge folks to practice fire safety and use caution in any outdoor activity that could start a fire.” 


Open Fire Burning Restrictions were implemented beginning July 7, as previously reported. Tysdal said that as always folks should be cautious and call 911 immediately if they see a fire start.

News Letter Journal

News Letter Journal
14 W. Main St.
P.O. Box 40
Newcastle, WY 82701
Ph: (307) 746-2777
Fax: (307) 746-2660

Email Us