Daily Archives: March 14, 2014
by nathan oster
If, in fact, the worst of the ice jams and flooding are behind us, then the homes belonging to Joe and K.C. Yarborough, and alongside of them to Lavone Castro and Leona Foulk, will probably go down as the ones that took the greatest hit in the Great Ice Jam of 2014.
When contacted this week, all involved expressed gratitude to the many who helped them in their time of need.
Their properties were hit from two sides, as not only did Dry Creek back up, but water from the Big Horn River came gushing out a culvert that runs beneath U.S. Highway 14-16-20. In fact, Yarborough says the culvert is where it all started.
“I can hold back that creek,” he said. “But I can’t hold back the Big Horn.”
Joe said he told LaVone and Leona on Saturday night to pack a bag and be ready to evacuate with little notice. He had a suspicion his property would flood. Shortly after 1 a.m., it became a reality. Water was pouring out of the culvert. He alerted a member of the town crew, who was on the bridge.
Joe woke LaVone and Leona and told them to get ready to move. In his house, he and K.C. started putting things up, hoping to keep them dry. The day before, they’d emptied their basement of all their belongings. Those things were tucked away in a trailer off property.
Around 3 a.m., some family members joined him in the fight against the flood water.
By late Sunday morning, however, most of his property was under water.
Joe described having a range of emotions — tears of joy and hope when Dave Moss showed up with a large pump and started blasting water off of his property 30 to 40 feet in the air, the anxiety of not knowing what might come next, the sense that all was lost when water surged for several minutes — and finally, the feeling of relief when the water began to retreat after the ice jam broke.
The basement of the Yarborough home, which Joe described a root cellar, flooded to within a couple of feet of the rafters. But on the positive side, it never reached the floor they live on, although it did come within an inch or two of doing so.
Yarborough and some family and friends spent Monday cleaning up, and getting the water out of the basement. They’ve been staying with family this week, until they get a replacement for their furnace, which was ruined by the water.
K.C. Yarborough said Big Horn County Search and Rescue was among the first on the scene, and that members of the Wyoming National Guard did a tremendous job filling sandbags for their property and the adjacent one.
“This whole experience has been so humbling,” said K.C.
Joe struck the same tone, saying, “The community beat this. We couldn’t have done it by ourselves. Everybody pitched in. And we’re so grateful. I’m thankful I live in the community I do. It’s amazing how many people responded. I was turning people away. At least 20 people I don’t know came down, introduced themselves and asked what they could do. That was great. And the town people took care of us, too.”
Joe said he has no plans to move. He just hopes that someone can come up with a way to plug the culvert. “I’d like to see a valve put on it,” he said. “The way it is now, it leaves is exposed. I can fight Dry Creek. It’s not that big of a deal. But the Big Horn River is a different story.”
‘Worst flooding ever’
Twin sisters LaVon Castro and Leona Foulk are 82 years old and have spent the past 30 years living along Dry Creek. Never before had they witnessed the type of flooding that forced them to evacuate their homes early Sunday morning.
“There was just water everywhere,” said Castro, who was awakened in the wee hours of the morning by neighbor Joe Yarborough, who was keeping watch over both their properties due to anticipated flooding from the Big Horn River.
Castro said she and her sister have been living in the mobile home. Water got under it, but never inside, which was a blessing. The same cannot be said for Foulk’s home. It was flooded out and, Castro fears, is a complete loss. “She had 2 feet of water in her home,” she said.
Castro and Foulk are spending this week with relatives in Powell. They had been staying with a friend in Greybull — until she abandoned her home and headed for high ground in the Heights as the level of the Big Horn River rose Sunday afternoon.
Like Yarborough, Castro feels the problem was a culvert that carried water from the Big Horn River onto her property.
“This was the worst flooding I’ve ever seen around here,” she said. “Never had it been up so high before.”
And like Yarborough, Castro said she’s been moved by “the outpouring of concern and love. Everybody has been so generous and so kind. We have such good neighbors there. We’ll be 83 soon. It seems weird, not being in our homes. To us, it provides a secure feeling. Yes, they were material things that we lost. But at the same time, they were things we’ve had all our lives.”
by nathan oster
It was the day when everyone, it seemed, went to see the river.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 won’t soon be forgotten — a day of shock, anxiety, concern … and ultimately, relief from Mother Nature herself in a crisis triggered by ice jams on the Big Horn River.
By late Tuesday night, it was nearly over. A release issued earlier in the day from the emergency management center at Greybull Town Hall indicated that the last remaining ice jam on the Big Horn River south of Manderson had broken up overnight. Ice was packed up near the Big Horn River bridge in Manderson, but was water flowing freely beneath it.
In Greybull, the river was flowing freely, the only ice in sight lying in chunk form between the river itself and the levee that protected the town from its closest call in a half century, since the levee was built in the 1950s at the urging of then Mayor Oscar Shoemaker.
According to preliminary county estimates, the ice jams caused major damage to six residential properties in Big Horn County, minor damage to 14 more residential properties and major damage to at least two businesses.
Several of them are in the Greybull area, including homes owned by Joe and K.C. Yarborough, LaVon Castro and Leona Foulk. Flooding was also reported north of town, damaging tracks that M-I Swaco relies on to move product as well as at the McFadden Ranch.
Through multiple interviews, a timeline of events emerges.
National Guard units had been in the Worland area, dealing with flooding and ice jams on the Big Horn River on Friday. In time, those jams broke up. No explosives were ever used to accomplish that, according to several of the emergency management personnel who followed the ice jams to Greybull later in the weekend.
The town was in the information loop on Saturday — but the first sign of trouble didn’t emerge until around 1 a.m. Sunday, when Town Foreman Dalen Davis received notification that there was flooding at the sewer lagoon north of town.
Now long after he notified Mayor Bob Graham, who went out to take a look for himself.
Eventually the lagoon lost its electrical power.
“We knew the power panel had been compromised,” said Graham.
Rocky Mountain Power was dispatched to the scene.
Graham informed the Department of Environmental Quality, which authorized the town to begin pumping sewage over the levee and into the Big Horn River as a way of keeping the water from backing up into the basements of homes around town.
At 6 a.m., a state of emergency was declared in Greybull, a step that Graham said was needed to access emergency funding. Sometime around then, Big Horn County followed suit with an emergency declaration of its own.
The initial flood control efforts were focused on homes on the north end of town.
The Wyoming National Guard sent troops to assist in the sandbagging efforts.
Later in the day, the group was split, with some staying to help homeowners on the north end of town and the rest shifting their focus to the lowest part of the town’s levee, which is between Sixth Avenue North and Eighth Avenue north.
While this was going on, all eyes were on the rising river. Ice jams were reported all along the stretch between the oxbow on the south end of town and the MI-Swaco bridge a few miles to the north.
On three occasions, the longest lasting 10 to 15 minutes, the Greybull Police Department closed the Big Horn River bridge, preventing motorists from crossing. It did so on the orders of the Wyoming Department of Transporation, which was concerned with not only the level of the river but also the size of the chunks passing under the bridge.
Brenner said the first shut-down occurred around noon. Another one was at 3. The third and final one happened when the jam broke and the ice started moving quickly along the river.
“I know we upset some people by doing that, but I wouldn’t have wanted to drive across that bridge,” said Brenner. “You could feel the ice chunks slamming into it. They would rock the bridge. It was spooky, actually. Some of those ice chunks were the size of semis. Luckily the bridge held up.”
Throughout the day, local residents trekked by the hundreds to the levee and the bluffs to the east to monitor the river. At one point, with large crowds milling along the levee, the police were asked to move them.
Greybull Fire Chief Paul Murdoch’s day began with a phone call he received around 5 a.m. on Sunday morning. He and Chuck Spragg were pressed into duty, first at the sewer lagoon, where they were tasked with getting the pump started that would direct sewage into the river.
The full fire department was called out around 7:30 or 8 that morning, and their initial focus was on sandbagging, which they did on the residential properties on the north end of town, as well as at the city shop.
Murdoch said he spent the day “bouncing around from place to place.”
He didn’t get worried until around 3 p.m., when the river surged to within inches of going over the levee, mostly between Sixth Avenue North and Eighth Avenue North, where it is at its lowest point.
“When we got that little surge around 3, I thought we were in trouble,” he said. “I had heard another surge would be coming.”
Graham said he, too, was concerned, but all along, “I had faith in the levy system. It had held everything out since the 1950s, and it had seen high water before. But I will say that (at its worst point Sunday afternoon) the water level was the highest its ever been, at least in my 27 years in this community. I was definitely concerned.”
Throughout the afternoon, town officials and the various agencies involved — Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Wyoming National Guard, the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office and Big Horn Search and Rescue, among others — focused on two primary issues.
The first was, what could be done to break up the ice jam.
Graham said explosives were considered at the command post at Town Hall, but that “the comments from the Corps and Homeland Security people were that explosives had been tried time and time again on other ice jams, without success. They said unless they’re properly placed, they rarely do any good. Unless you can get them under the ice and blow it into the air, it’s basically a feel-good exercise only.”
Both Graham and Murdoch said they were going to investigate “whatever means they could” to spare the town. Murdoch contacted a demolitions expert in Powell, but he didn’t have the required explosives on hand. The earliest he could have had them here was Monday morning.
“He wouldn’t have been able to help us,” Murdoch said.
Graham said there was also talk of getting a trackhoe and trying to break up the jam from the MI-Swaco bridge. “We couldn’t find one anywhere close to here with a long enough reach,” Graham said.
“Those were really our only two options at that point, other than hoping that Mother Nature would take its course.”
That led to a second issue: What could be done if water starts pouring over the levee.
“At that point, we felt that with the sidewalk on top of the levee, it wasn’t going to split the levee. So what we were preparing to do was to direct the water wherever it came over the levee to the storm drains or lift stations, where we could get some pumps in so that we could pump it back into the river,” said Graham. “I know it sounds silly. Water’s coming over the levee and you’re going to pump it back over the levee into the river. But you have to try something to keep it from flooding the town. You can’t just let it happen.”
The other major precaution that was taken Sunday was to fortify the low spots on the levee, mainly between Sixth and Eighth Avenues. Initially sand bags were used. In time, WYDOT brought jersey barriers. Using equipment from Larry Anderson, Bill Hunt and Clay Collingwood and the manpower of firefighters and volunteers, the barriers were placed atop the levee. This work continued throughout the evening, until around 9:30 p.m. with approximately 50 going down.
By then, things were considerably less tense. The ice jam started breaking up shortly after 6 p.m. Those who witnessed it reported seeing a momentary surge, followed by a rapid retreat of water.
At around 6:15 p.m., Graham received a call from Joe Cheatham, who was at the MI-Swaco bridge. Cheatham reported that the ice jam had broken up, and that water was starting to move freely again, pushing ice chunks to the north.
Graham said he and Murdoch were riding in a truck when they got the news.
“There were some high fives,” said Graham.
Murdoch added, “Mother Nature is what saved our butts.”
“I was worried about the dike coming apart,” said Murdoch. “We can tell (FEMA) now that we’ve certified the dike. It works.”
Commission Chairman Jerry Ewen said the community made an impression on him. “One thing I saw in Greybull was the community spirit,” he said. “Everyone got together with a common purpose. Nobody was asking, ‘Am I going to get paid?’ or ‘How much am I going to get paid?’ High school kids came down to help fill sandbags. Everybody had this attitude that they weren’t going to wait for the government to help us. We’re going to work at it ourselves to get it fixed.”
Jonathan Dyer, a captain in the Wyoming National Guard, agreed.
“Last night around 5, we were sitting here and we were all pretty worried,” he said. “We just had to wait and see what was going to happen. Finally at 6 our engineer came from the bridge and said he’d heard a big crack, and that the water started to flow. There was a huge sigh of relief everywhere.
“Between 5 and 6:30, it was just like the entire town decided to get together and start to work on this. All the effort they put in … the way they put themselves on the line yesterday to save their town. That was the takeaway for me. It wasn’t any type of national or state response that saved the day. It was the community, showing what it’s made of.”
Added Graham, “It’s been one big team effort. It seems to have all worked out well. Everybody did their job. The levee did too.”
As a result of all the planning that occurred, the town and for that matter the whole surrounding area will be better prepared for high water due to mountain runoff. Thousands of sandbags were filled and will be stored around the community.
July 11, 1939 – Feb. 28, 2014
Graveside services for Shirley Anne Vigil of Basin will be held Saturday, March 15 at the Otto Cemetery. Shirley, 74, died Friday morning, Feb. 28, at her home in Basin.
She was born July 11, 1939, in Grand Forks, N.D., the daughter of John E. “Count” and Mary Isabel Wagar Carey. When Shirley was a young child the family moved to Thermopolis where she attended school and graduated from Thermopolis High School.
She married Anthony “Tony” Vigil Nov. 21, 1959, in Denver. The couple was sealed in the Provo, Utah Temple Nov. 15, 1974.
Shirley enjoyed ranching and caring for animals. She was an exceptional seamstress, enjoyed gardening and loved her family and being a grandmother. She lived a good life and will be missed.
She was a member of the LDS Church and participated in the Red Hat Society and the Pioneer Women.
Her parents and her husband preceded her in death.
Shirley is survived by her children and their spouses: Ray and Cari Vigil of Oklahoma City; Dwain and Mary Kaye Vigil Christopherson of Burlington; Roberta Nelson of Basin and Roman and Sylvia Vigil of Roswell, N.M.; two sisters and a brother-in-law, Wayne and Dona McLain of St. George, Utah, and Leola Sheldon of Casper; two brothers and two sisters-in-law, Ed and Shirley Carey of Kansas City, Mo., and Bill and Mary Ellen Carey of Placerville, Calif.; 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
A luncheon for family and friends will be held at the Burlington LDS Church following the graveside services.
Memorials in Shirley’s name can be sent to Security State Bank, Box 531, Basin, WY 82410. A beneficiary of the proceeds will be decided at a later date.
Jan. 22, 1926 – March 7, 2014
Funeral services for Myron Alfred Jones will be held Saturday, March 15 at 3 p.m. at the Burlington Church of the Latter-day Saints. Myron, 88, died March 7 at his home south of Otto.
He was born Jan. 22, 1926, in Otto, the first son of Isaac Alfred and Ida Mary Peterson Jones.
He grew up working hard. He completed the eighth grade but missed school frequently to work on the family farm. As a young boy, he herded sheep alone and prepared fields for planting with a team of horses. His summers were spent in the Big Horn Mountains on his parents’ homestead. He learned to log and saw timber and grew to love such activities. Although he had little formal education, he loved to read and studied material to improve his farming operation. He always read informational material, never fiction.
He married Renon Christensen Dec. 26, 1964, in the LDS Temple in Manti, Utah. Myron was a kind, patient man with a good sense of humor and a mischievous grin. He never raised his voice and rarely got angry. He loved to hunt and fish; enjoyed playing games, especially cards, and was a great problem solver.
His parents, his five sisters, Lillian Jones Hopkin, Bertha Jones Jordan, Ora Jones, Guinevere Jones and Mary Jones, and two brothers, Kenneth and Fred Ray Jones, preceded him in death.
He is survived by his wife Renon Jones, three children and their spouses, Matthew and Janalee Jones Call, Randall Myron and Michelle Jones and Craig Alfred and Leslie Jones, all of Otto; and 20 grandchildren.
Burial will be in the Otto Cemetery.
by nathan oster
The Greybull Buffs overcame their first hurdle by dominating Lusk and were two good quarters away from earning a berth in the state championship game before a late rally by the Wyoming Indian Chiefs dashed their title hopes last weekend at the State 2A Basketball Championships in Casper.
But true to their form throughout the season, the Buffs bounced back from defeat, beating Pine Bluffs in Saturday afternoon’s third-place game at Casper College to capture the third-place trophy. Greybull finished 24-5.
“I’d characterize it as a great year,” said Coach Jim Prather. “We were the undefeated conference champs, third at regionals, third at state and we set a school record for most wins during a season.
“But most importantly, this was a group of outstanding young men who represented their school and the community in a positive fashion everywhere they went. As a coach, those are some great things to be thankful for. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Greybull looked like a team on a mission in their tournament opener against a Lusk team that had been ranked above them for much of the season. The Tigers won their conference but were upset in the regional final by Big Horn, leaving them as a No. 2 seed.
When the two teams played the second weekend of the regular season, Greybull was one point better. The rematch wasn’t as close, as the Buffs started fast, building a 14-5 lead after one, and cruised from there to a 58-39 win.
Prather called it “arguably the most important game of the tournament,” noting that a win would guarantee that the Buffs would be playing for a trophy on Saturday. His team responded by playing with a sense of urgency.
“I think the score, and how physically we controlled them from start to finish, was indicative of our growth as a team,” said Prather. “One of the teams got a whole lot better from early December to early March — and that was us.”
Greybull shot 49 percent from the field, including 4 of 8 from long range, and had just 14 turnovers. Kason Clutter led the way with 26 points to go along with eight boards, four assists and four steals.
Treston Tracy followed with 12 points and nine boards, while Paul Stewart added 12 boards.
Wyoming Indian, which beat Burns on Thursday, was waiting for the Buffs in the semifinals.
The Buffs had played the Chiefs tough earlier in the season, losing by just five in Ethete, so they were a confident bunch going in. They knew that the key to success was being careful with the ball, and in the first half they certainly were, with only a half dozen miscues.
“We’d be happy with that against any opponent,” said Prather. “But to have that kind of success against the Chiefs, it’s just crucial. It prevents them from going on a lot of those four and five possession runs where they put a lot of points on the board in a hurry.
At halftime, the Buffs led 26-20. They had connected on 12 of 23 from the field, which was better than 50 percent. Their strong play continued in the third quarter, as the Buffs eventually built the lead up to 11 before the Chiefs came storming back.
With leading scorers Kason Clutter and Treston Tracy in foul trouble, the Buffs couldn’t finish.
Wyoming Indian had a lot to do with that. The Chiefs closed to within two, 37-35, at third quarter break and eventually tied the game at 38 apiece early in the fourth quarter. Clutter, the Buffs’ point guard, picked up his fourth foul at 4:22. At the time, the score was knotted at 40.
One of the turning points in the game came with about 3 ½ minutes to play. Wilson Clifford was at the line. He had sunk the first shot to give the Chiefs a one-point lead. His second shot clanged off the iron, but the Buffs were unable to corral the rebound. The Chiefs snared it and got it to an open Buell Robinson, who drained what would be his only 3-pointer of the game.
Suddenly, the Buffs found themselves down four.
“That put them up two possessions — and that’s not a situation you want to be in late against that team,” said Prather. “Give them credit.”
The Chiefs snatched the victory by forcing 13 Greybull turnovers and shooting 50 percent from the field in the third and 67 percent from the field in the fourth. For the game, they were 20 of 46 from the floor and 17 of 31 from the line, including 12 of 22 in the final quarter. Clifford did most of that damage, hitting 8 of 12 in the fourth quarter and 11 of 15 in the game to finish with 19 points. “It may have been the game of his life,” said Prather. “When we’ve played them in the past, he’s never played that well.”
Greybull connected on 7 of 14 from the stripe — and five of those misses came in the fourth.
Prather said his team entered the game with a goal of controlling the key — “and I thought our kids rose to that challenge, particularly in the first half.” Down the stretch though, they just couldn’t overcome the Chiefs.
“I was proud of the way our bench played when we had to go to situational subbing at the end of the game,” he said. “We tried to generate some turnovers. At one point, we got it down to four points. We hoped we could get a five-count on an inbounds play, but just couldn’t pull it off.
“Credit our kids. They fought hard to the end. I was proud of them.”
Tracy paced Greybull with 17, followed by Clutter with 12.
The loss sent the Buffs to the third-place game for a matchup with Pine Bluffs, which had lost in double overtime Friday night to Rocky Mountain. Any question about whether the Buffs would be up for the game was answered early, as Greybull got off to another fast start.
The lead fluctuated between two and four points at each of the first three quarter stops.
The Buffs pulled it out though, with a 21-point fourth quarter. Clutter, playing his final game, wouldn’t be denied the win. He sank 7 of 9 free throws and talled 11 of his team-high 23 points in the final quarter. Treston Tracy added six to the mix in the final quarter to finish with 14.
Greybull again struggled from the line, hitting 13 of 29, but made up for it by having only 11 turnovers and playing soid defense.
“I was ecstatic for the kids being able to walk out of there with a trophy. They earned it,” said Prather.
The game marked the end of the playing careers of Payton Gonzalez, Kason Clutter, Paul Stewart, Bryce Wright and Logan Jensen. More on their careers, a wrapup of the season and a look ahead to next year will appear in next week’s issue.
Greybull 14 13 14 17 — 58
Lusk 5 6 20 8 — 39
GREYBULL — Fabian Davila 2 0-0 4, Wyatt Nielson 1 0-0 2, Kason Clutter 12 0-2 26, Paul Stewart 2 3-6 7, Zack Zeller 1 0-0 3, Bryce Wright 2 0-1 4, Treston Tracy 5 1-3 12 — 25-51 4-12 58.
LUSK — M. VandeBossche 1 2-4 4, Venable 0 0-2 0, Shaw 4 2-2 12, Dockery 4 2-3 10, Lamar 3 0-0 7, Robinson 1 0-0 3, D. VandeBossche 1 1-4 3. Totals 14 7-15 39.
3-POINT GOALS — Clutter 2, Zeller, Tracy; Shaw 2, Lamar, Robinson. REBOUNDS — Greybull 36 (Stewart 12, Tracy 9). STEALS — Greybull 12 (Clutter 4). ASSISTS — Greybull (Clutter 4, Gonzalez 4). TURNOVERS — Greybull 14.
Greybull 12 14 11 12 — 49
Wyo. Indian 8 12 15 23 — 58
GREYBULL — Payton Gonzalez 2 0-2 5, Kason Clutter 4 4-8 12, Ryan Sylvester 1 0-0 3, Paul Stewart 4 0-0 8, Bryce Wright 2 0-0 4, Treston Tracy 7 3-4 17. Totals 20 7-14 49.
WYO INDIAN — Valdez 1 0-0 2, Mosqueda 3 1-2 7, Clifford 4 11-15 19, Howell 1 0-3 2, Gardner 0 2-2 2, Robinson 4 0-2 9, Williamson 6 3-7 15. Totals 20 17-31 58.
3-POINT GOALS — Gonzalez, Sylvester; Robinson. REBOUNDS — Greybull 29 (Stewart 7). STEALS — Greybull 7 (Forcella, Clutter 3). ASSISTS — Greybull 18 (Clutter 10). TURNOVERS — Greybull 20.
Greybull 10 14 9 21 — 54
Pine Bluffs 8 13 14 15 — 50
GREYBULL — Gonzalez 2 0-0 4, Calder Forcella 1 0-0 3, Clutter 7 9-12 23, Sylvester 3 1-8 7, Stewart 0 1-2 1, Wright 0 2-6 2, Logan Jensen 0 0-1 0, Treston Tracy 7 0-0 14. Totals 20 13-29 54.
PINE BLUFFS — Thompson 6 10-12 22, Steger 2 0-2 4, Gross 6 0-2 12, Werner 1 3-5 6, Thurin 0 0-1 1, Bymer 2 0-0 5. Totals 17 14-23 50.
3-POINT GOALS — Forcella; Werner, Bymer. REBOUNDS — Greybull 28 (Clutter 9). STEALS — Greybull 14 (Clutter 4). ASSISTS — Greybull 10 (Clutter 4). TURNOVERS — Greybull 11.
By marlys good
Young artists in Big Horn County School District No. 3 will be hosting the annual Art in the Dark Friday night at the Historic Hotel Greybull.
Exhibits will be in place and ready for viewing from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Those attending can cast their vote for the people’s choice award.
Art instructor Teresa Boyer said 50 middle and high school students will be exhibiting a wide range of artwork.
“The kids came up with so many different materials and processes. There are paintings, plastic sculptures, full bodies, a piece out of an old tire, paper maché. It should be exciting.”
The district’s secondary music teacher, Michael Jaycox, will set the mood with music.
Cash awards will go to the top three placers.
Everyone is encouraged to drop in and browse through the rooms in the historic hotel, view the backlit artwork and cast a vote for their favorite.