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Lingle residents evacuate as Interstate Canal breaches

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On Friday, Fred Krieg received a call at 6:30 a.m. from a truck driver notifying him that his farm about two miles west of Lingle was under water. A breach of the Interstate Canal caused flooding on his property and that of his neighbor. By late Friday morning, that breach threatened the small Wyoming town of Lingle. 

“After I got the phone call, I called my farmer and he said, 'We got a massive water problem,'” Krieg said. “He could see about a 20-foot section broke out of the Tri-state ditch, ruptured, and it was dumping water downhill to our property.”

Dan Ellis, who leases the Krieg farm ground, told the Star-Herald, “Well, I've heard of it happening. But this is the first time I've ever witnessed it and it's a lot of water."

Krieg and his wife, Sue, rent the house on their farm, which was quickly evacuated. He said the first floor of the house, along with the barn, was under water Friday morning. Sue said the water was running down both sides of U.S. Highway 26 toward Lingle when they tried to reach their farm.

“There’s a feedlot right before our farm and they were frantically trying to get all their livestock out and get all their furniture out of the house,” she said.

Ellis said about 550 head of cattle were moved out of Brian Greenwald’s feedyard before it became completely flooded.

“They got the canal shut off but it's gonna take quite a while for it to drain,” Ellis said. “It drains back both directions for a while and then we get a lot of our water out of the little ditch, the Lucerne canal, and it broke it out, too. So it’s running water, too, but not near the volume.”

At about 4 p.m. Friday, Rick Miller, Pathfinder Irrigation District general manager, confirmed to the Star-Herald that the Interstate Canal breach had been blocked earlier and water was being diverted. He said repairs could be made in the near future.

“It’s just a matter of waiting for it to dry up,” he said. 

For those concerned about a repeat of the 2019 canal collapse in the Gering-Fort Laramie system, Miller offered some reassurances. 

“I will say it’s nothing comparable to the Gering – Fort Laramie event a few years ago,” he said. “We broke more water out than they did, but our situation is so much different because our damage to the ditch isn’t as bad. There is some damage in town that they didn’t have to deal with, but our repair went pretty quick.”

Miller said that at this point they just don’t know exactly what lead to the canal breach but it is unrelated to the overnight rainfall.

“It could be just about anything, it could be a gopher hole, we just don’t know what started it. We were out on the ditches last night due to the rain until about midnight and everything looked great. It must have happened early this morning sometime, we’re guessing about 4:45 in the morning.”

According to an alert issued at 3:56 p.m. by the U.S. National Weather Service - Cheyenne office, Goshen County including Lingle has a flood advisory in effect until 8 a.m. Saturday. Gov. Mark Gordon has activated the Wyoming National Guard and others to assist in stemming 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.”

The flood advisory was issued because of continued flooding caused by the breach of the Interstate Canal. Impacts include water over roadways, crossings may become impassable and ponding of water in Lingle or other areas is occurring or is imminent, the National Weather Service said.

According to the emergency management report, water has been diverted, however, flooding will continue in and around Lingle and U.S. Highway 26 west of Lingle as the canal was full prior to diversion.

 

Nicole Heldt is a reporter with the Star-Herald, covering agriculture.  She can be reached at 308-632-9044 or by email at nheldt@starherald.com.

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Nicole Heldt is a reporter with the Star-Herald, covering agriculture. She can be reached at 308-632-9044 or by email at nheldt@starherald.com.

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